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Intuitive Surgical CEO: No Comment on New Multiport Robot

The question at the top of investor minds for Intuitive Surgical has been met with an emphatic "no comment."

Amanda Pedersen

January 11, 2024

2 Min Read
Operating room staff using a da Vinci Xi surgical robotic system during a procedure.
FDA approved Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci Xi (fourth-generation da Vinci) in April 2014.Image courtesy of Intuitive Surgical

Last year at this time, Intuitive Surgical dashed investor hopes of a 2023 launch of a new multiport robot. Hopefully investors weren't holding their breath for a more favorable answer this year.

When J.P. Morgan's Robbie Marcus pressed Intuitive CEO Gary Guthart for comment on a new multiport robot in 2024, the question was met with an emphatic, "No comment."

Then again, with an impressive 415 capital placements in the fourth quarter of 2023 (well above analyst expectations of 349 robot shipments in the quarter), Intuitive Surgical seems to be doing just fine without a new multiport robot on the near-term horizon. CFO Jamie Samath explained during the Q&A that followed Guthart's presentation Wednesday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that one reason new placements looked so strong in the fourth quarter is because the number of trade-ins dropped, and because strong procedure growth is driving the need for incremental capacity for da Vinci robots.

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"The business is in a very different position than the last time you launched a new multiport robot," Marcus told Guthart during the Q&A. "Leases are a big part of the business. ... and also quite frankly, you're doing so well with the old robot, maybe there's less of a need to upgrade to a newer robot?"

Carefully sidestepping any direct commentary on a new robot, Guthart agreed to talk about generational changeover in general terms.

"We are always working on things that we think are powerful, and customer comes in and sits now with us and says, 'are you working on something new?' And the answer is, yes, of course. [That's] like asking Mercedes, are they working on the next E-Class. I think the answer is yes," Guthart said.

He reminded attendees that development timelines in surgical robotics are "extremely long." So long, in fact, that Intuitive is not only working on a next-generation system, the company is already working on the next one behind that.

But don't expect the surgical robotics pioneer to launch a new robot just because it seems like it's time to. Guthart was clear that the company would not rush a new system to market without making a meaningful change to the technology.

Secondly, he said, the company has to be able to get the supply chains right.

And finally, the company needs the global regulators to come along with it on such a journey in order to understand the new submission, review it, challenge it, and eventually accept it.

"When those conditions are met, then we come do it," Guthart said. "And when we do that, we talk to our customers first, and then we come talk to you. Not the other way around."

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

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