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Smith & Nephew Snatches Up Surgical Robotics Firm for $275M

The British orthopedic giant has completed its $275 million acquisition of robotic surgical device maker Blue Belt Technologies.

Nancy Crotti

Blue Belt's (Plymouth, MN) Navio handheld, robotic-assisted technology guides the surgeon in creating a virtual surgical plan that removes the need for standard mechanical cutting guides and jigs.The handheld device helps the surgeon to prepare bone for implantation, according to the company's website.

Designed for partial-knee replacement surgery, Navio works with S&N's Journey and Zuk systems, and eight others, including Blue Belt's own Stride system. S&N has said it intends to launch a total knee system in 2017 for its Journey II implant, and is working on a revision knee system. The British company plans to incorporate Blue Belt's bi-cruciate-retaining implant development program into its own Journey II XR implant bi-cruciate-retaining knee arthroplasty program. Blue Belt also brings its programs targeting total hip replacement and sports medicine applications to the deal.

Amidst the news of the Blue Belt acquisition, S&N's stock jumped 5 points to 1174 pence on the London stock exchange. Just two weeks ago, Smith & Nephew's stock shot up nearly 5% in value, to 1172 pence, on the London Stock Exchange amid talk of a renewed effort by Stryker to acquire the British medical device maker.Speculation has swirled for years that Stryker or another large medical device maker would acquire S&N as part of the spate of megamergers sweeping the medical device industry.

The Blue Belt acquisition signals continued activity in the orthopedic robotics sector. FDA cleared a total knee application for Stryker's Mako surgical robot arm in August. Stryker paid $1.7 billion to acquire Mako Surgical and its robotic surgery technology in late 2013. In December 2015, Johnson & Johnson and Alphabet Inc.'s new life sciences division, Verily Inc., said that they have launched a new company to develop smaller and less expensive surgical robots.

Brush up on the latest medical device technologies at MD&M West, February 9-11 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA.

Brian Buntz is the editor-in-chief of MPMN and Qmed. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz.

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