Google’s Verily Creates New Surgical Company Verb With Johnson & Johnson

Published: Dec 10, 2015

Google's Verily Creates New Surgical Company Verb With J&J
December 10, 2015
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Only days after Google’s Life Sciences spinoff announced its new name, Verily Life Sciences, Johnson & Johnson announced a collaboration with Verily to create an independent surgical solutions company, Verb Surgical Inc.

In March 2015, JNJ’s Ethicon, Inc. , a medical devices company, announced a strategic collaboration with Google Life Sciences. The focus of that collaboration was to develop robotic surgery platforms that integrated advanced technologies. The new company, Verb, will do the same thing. Scott Huennekens will be Verb’s president and chief executive officer.

“We believe Verb Surgical has the potential to change the future of surgery, not just robotic surgery,” said Gary Pruden, Worldwide Chairman, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices, in a statement. “The team has already made meaningful progress on the robotics platform, which is being developed for application across a host of surgical specialties.”

The new company will be headquartered in Mountain View, Calif.

Verily appears to focus on a wide variety of health-related goals, although the company’s new website suggested that health monitors and utilizing big data to manage, organize and analyze the enormous wealth of biological data they generate is an overall focus. It is developing a contact lens to monitor a diabetic’s blood glucose level, and a Band-Aid sized health monitor, among other projects. Surgery robotics seems a little outside that focus.

However, a company spokesman told TechCrunch, “Verily is a new company that is focused on bringing together technology, science and medicine in the places where we think we can have the biggest impact on the detection, management, and prevention of disease.”

One of Verb’s biggest competitors will be Intuitive Surgical, Inc., best known for its da Vinci Surgery robotics platforms.

In 2014, Ethicon developed a surgical robot prototype, which Pruden told Reuters would be a “’disruptive’ alternative to existing products.” Current surgical robots are large, approximately the size of a small car, and the surgeon operates a control manual about 10 feet away. Verb’s robotic platform will be approximately 20 percent smaller and will let the surgeon work closer to the patient. Current systems also cost $2 million or more, and this new robot is reported to be considerably less expensive.

Johnson & Johnson also has indicated that, although most robotic surgery platforms are used for prostate cancer and gynecological surgery, the new system by Verb will have broader usage, including thoracic surgery, colorectal surgery and bariatric weight loss procedures. It will also, because it’s an Alphabet/Google company, involve data. “It would come loaded with technologies from Alphabet, including ‘machine learning,’ in which the robot could analyze a video library of images from hundreds of previous surgeries in order to instruct the surgeon where to cut,” reported Reuters.

“I’m very excited about the possibilities that we can realize through our new surgical solutions company,” said Huennekens in a statement. “By maximizing the distinct capabilities of these two market-leading companies, we aim to develop novel technologies and solutions to help improve the standard of care around the world. Our name speaks for itself. We are a company dedicated to action and to making a difference in people’s lives, in partnership with surgeons globally.”

Huennekens was chief executive officer of Volcano from 2002 to 2015. Volcano focuses on intravascular imaging.

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