The History of Surgical Robotics Starts with Frederic Moll

Sunday's New York Times had a lengthy profile of Frederic Moll, the Bill Gates of surgical robotics. Moll founded the market leader, Intuitive Surgical, and these days runs Hansen Medical and Restoration Robotics. He is also on the board of Mako Surgical.

Sunday's New York Times had a lengthy profile of Frederic Moll, the Bill Gates of surgical robotics. Moll founded the market leader, Intuitive Surgical, and these days runs Hansen Medical and Restoration Robotics. He is also on the board of Mako Surgical. Some interesting tidbits: * Moll was not driven by a desire to use robotics, but by a desire to make surgery less invasive. When he saw early designs of surgical robots, he became convinced that they could help in that area. * In 1994, Moll pitched the business plan that became Intuitive Surgical to his then-employer, Guidant. The company rejected it, and a year later Moll rounded up investors and struck out on his own. Imagine how Guidant's fortunes might have been altered had it approved Moll's plan. * Moll sees the greatest value of robots as their ability to make average surgeons perform as well as world-class ones. “The public has no idea of the extent of difference between top surgeons and bad ones,” he told the Times. “Robots are good at going where they are supposed to, remembering where they are and stopping when required.” The piece also mentions two surgical robotics firms not affiliated with Moll, Accuray and Stereotaxis. Some of those interviewed for the article question whether hospitals will ever see much of a return on investment from surgical robotic systems. But it appears many top hospitals see them not as a profit-maker but as a means by which to recruit top surgeons. And Wall Street remains bullish. The share price of Intuitive, which was named one of MD&DI's Medical Manufacturers of the Year in 2007, has increased almost sevenfold in the last three years. And Hansen was able to raise $39.4 million earlier this year, despite the gloomy outlook on the economy. So for now, anyway, the sector's stunning growth should continue.

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