Dublin-based Medtronic plc acquired privately held Digital Surgery, which is focused on surgical artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and digital education and training. The companies did not release the terms of the deal. Medtronic plans to integrate Digital Surgery’s AI technology into its robotic platform and across its portfolio.

“Over the past two years, we have identified four pan-Medtronic technology vectors that are important for our near and long-term success in robotics – Robotic Systems, Instrumentation, Data & Analytics, and Visualization & Navigation. Today represents a significant milestone in our Data & Analytics vector,” Megan Rosengarten, vice president and general manager of the Surgical Robotics business, which is part of the Minimally Invasive Therapies Group (MITG) at Medtronic, told BioWorld.

“Joining Medtronic creates an incredible opportunity to realize the promise of reducing unwarranted variability in surgery,” said Jean Nehme, surgeon and CEO of Digital Surgery, who co-founded the company with fellow surgeon Andre Chow.

Digital Surgery employs cutting-edge computing to digitize surgical protocols and increase surgical consistency that reflects the best available data and evidence-based guidelines.

“We have always believed in computational power and data as two central drivers of consistency and quality in surgery,” Chow said. “Computational power has impacted our lives in so many ways, and within surgery it is almost absent. By joining forces with Medtronic, we will finally apply computing and AI to surgery on a meaningful scale with a goal of helping more patients in more places benefit from consistently high-quality surgical care.”

Further investment expected

While Digital Surgery and its 130 employees will remain in London under the aegis of Medtronic’s MITG, both founders will continue to provide leadership to the unit. Medtronic is expected to continue investment in growing the new acquisition, enabling an increase in the workforce and development of new products.

“Capabilities and solutions in the data and analytics space play a critical role in our continued focus on advancing minimally invasive surgery – from education and training, to clinical decision support, to reducing cost and unwarranted variability,” elaborated Rosengarten.

“Our plan with Digital Surgery includes using Medtronic’s breadth and scale to grow and commercialize their products that are in development or currently on the market. For example, Digital Surgery leads the industry with their unique Touch Surgery mobile-based education and training. In the future, we plan to leverage Digital Surgery expertise and technology to provide insight into procedure time, cost and processes to improve surgical care,” Rosengarten added.

“At the same time, the Digital Surgery team will bolster and augment our current capabilities within surgical robotics, and we will work together to bring forth tools that support intraoperative surgeon decision-making and reduce unwarranted variability,” she noted.

To start, Digital Surgery and Medtronic expect to offer co-developed digital solutions on future Medtronic soft tissue robotic-assisted surgery systems.

Deal reflects Medtronic’s strategy

The robotic-assisted surgery platform represents a “highly underpenetrated market, due to cost and utilization barriers,” for Medtronic, said CEO Omar Ishrak at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in January. The platform is “expected to be a significant incremental contributor to MITG growth over the coming years,” with increasing impact in fiscal years 2022 and 2023, he noted.

The Digital Surgery acquisition aligns with Medtronic’s goal of building this business segment.

“Data and analytics are critical to the future of surgery and a natural part of our ongoing mission to advance patient care. This acquisition fuels Medtronic’s vision to make minimally invasive surgery more efficient, safe, affordable, and consistently delivered around the world,” Rosengarten said. “Additionally, Digital Surgery’s mobile-based education and training solution supports a myriad of digital training content across procedures and specialties.”

“We are thrilled to bring the Digital Surgery team and their expertise into Medtronic, not only due to the strategic fit from a technology perspective, but due to the shared belief that patients around the world deserve access to quality surgical care,” Rosengarten added. “By pairing digital solutions with robotic platforms and instrumentation, we can have a big impact on expanding patient access.”

The deal is not anticipated to materially affect the fiscal 2020 adjusted earnings per share for Medtronic (NYSE:MDT). The company’s third-quarter results will be released Feb. 18.

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