Startup aims to disrupt the robotic spine industry: How will competitors react?


Two of the biggest drawbacks of legacy spine robots are their size and cost, but one newly formed spine company has launched a system that it argues is more suited to ASCs and hospitals with small operating rooms.

Earlier this year, Accelus — formed when Integrity Implants merged with Fusion Robotics — launched the Remi spine robot, "designed specifically to meet the needs of the ASC," Ernest Braxton, MD, chief of neurosurgery at Vail-Summit (Colo.) Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery, said in a July 14 news release.

Remi includes an ultra-lightweight nearfield camera to minimize line-of-sight issues and a robotic targeting platform that surgeons can manipulate before locking in for targeting. Both the camera and targeting platform are attached to the operating room table during surgery and stored in the workstation when not operational, which minimizes Remi's footprint and makes it ideal for use in ASCs, according to Accelus.

Kevin Foley, MD, chief robotics officer at Accelus, said his goal was to develop a platform that exceeds the precision of legacy spine robots and address the well-documented limitations of those systems, such as their large footprints, high cost, procedural workflow disruptions, and extended setup and teardown time.

"Remi addresses all of these concerns, providing equivalent accuracy with an optimized procedural workflow and duration at a fraction of the cost of previous systems," Dr. Foley said.

While Accelus is a small company compared to the medtech heavyweights of Medtronic, Globus Medical and Zimmer Biomet, it is positioning itself to disrupt the robotic spine industry and chip away at the market share of its larger competition. 

Their legacy spine robots cost about $1 million, and — as independent spine surgeons continue to face economic challenges — the next generations of their robots may need to come down in price and perhaps in size.

While emerging device companies focus on bringing their spine robots to market, the larger spine companies are designing new business models to help sell or lease their robots to ASCs, which, if they are physician-owned, are more deliberate when it comes to upfront capital costs.

Accelus' spine robot only hit the market this year, but the size and cost factors are likely to appeal to many spine practices and surgery centers, which are also looking to add the latest and greatest technologies as a way to improve efficiencies, attract patients and recruit and retain top surgeon talent. 

The robotic spine market is still in its infancy but the technology is developing rapidly. As competition continues to grow, the cost of these systems is likely to decrease and accelerate adoption across the industry.

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