Japan’s Riverfield raises $10 mln for its robot surgeon

Japanese medical technology company Riverfield said it had raised $1.15 billion yen ($10.1 million) to bring its robotic surgeon Emaro to market.

The round was led by Japanese construction engineering company Toray Engineering, venture capital companies like SB Investment, Beyond Next Ventures and others.

Riverfield’s robotic surgeon is expected to hit the commercial market by 2020, Nikkei Asian Review reported.

The company, which started as a spin-off out of Tokyo Institute of Technology, aims to compete with US Intuitive Surgical [stock symbol=”ISRG”], considered the global leader of robotic surgical systems.

Unlike its US rival, Riverfield’s Emaro is powered by pneumatics, which will reportedly make it the world’s first pneumatically driven surgical robot, allowing for lower costs and higher precision.

Emaro’s price is expected to be half of Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci Surgical System which costs around $2 million per unit.

Da Vinci Surgical System. Credit: Intuitive Surgical

According to different sources, da Vinci Surgical System is being used by some 4,000 medical units throughout the world.

Robotic surgical equipment allows for high precision, quick performance and minimum invasion. A study conducted in Canada based on more than 1,200 robotic surgeries using the third-generation da Vinci surgical (Si) system, reported malfunctions in almost 5% of the surgeries. The malfunctions however did not seem “to affect patient safety or surgical outcome” and were “rarely consequential”, the study concluded.

A recent study by Israeli robotic guidance system maker Mazor Robotics showed that robotic-guided spine surgeries were 5.3 times less likely to result in complications compred to fluoroscopic-guided, freehand procedures. Using fluoroscopy, doctors can track objects in real time with the help of X-ray images.

Unsurprisingly, the surgical robots market is set for a steady growth in the coming years. According to a research by Acute Market Reports, the global market for abdominal surgical robots is projected to reach almost $16 billion by 2023, up from $2.9 billion in 2017.

Intuitive Surgical Inc. is a US medical corporation listed on NASDAQ, and now part of S&P 500. Its stock closed at $376.09 on October 30, up 0.62%.