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J&J delaying Ottava surgical robotic by 2 years


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Johnson & Johnson Ottava surgical robot

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has had a “temporary setback” with its Ottava surgical robotic system. Speaking on the company’s third-quarter earnings call, EVP Joseph Wolk said that while the company maintains its commitment to developing a general surgery offering with Ottava, the platform’s development timeline has been pushed back about two years due to multiple factors.

The initial expectation was to begin the verification and validation processes for Ottava in 2021, followed by enrollment in clinical trials for the device in 2022.

“We recorded a partial in-process R&D charge for $900 million in the third quarter,” Wolk said. “The accounting for this charge contemplates a first-in-human delay of approximately two years from our earlier projections of the second half of 2022, reflecting technical development challenges and COVID-19-related disruptions, including supply chain constraints being experienced broadly across all industries. Clearly, we realize the importance that a differentiated digital robotic platform can have for patient outcomes and the market. We continue to invest in and be committed to the platform and we’ll provide updates to the external community as warranted.”

This news means Medtronic continues to pull ahead of J&J when it comes to taking on Intuitive Surgical, the space’s dominant player with its da Vinci robots. Medtronic’s Hugo platform received European approval last week.

J&J EVP Ashley McEvoy also touched on the Ottava setbacks during the call. She said that while transformational innovation “is all kinds of fun,” the complexities can lead to technical challenges.

“We are absolutely committed to resolving our challenges, continuing to invest and bringing to market a competitive, differentiated offering as soon as possible,” McEvoy said on Ottava.

During the company’s medical device update in November 2020, J&J unveiled the system and it touted as capable of offering unrivaled flexibility and control compared to the rest of the market. The term “Ottava,” in Italian, means to play music an octave higher, highlighting the company’s aim to proverbially go an octave higher in medical intervention, according to J&J’s robotics chief development officer Dr. Frederic Moll, an Intuitive Surgical co-founder who joined J&J through its acquisition of his Auris Health in 2019.

J&J designed Ottava with six arms to provide more control and flexibility in surgery, while its arms will be integrated into the operating table. Additionally, at the time of unveiling, the company said the platform has a zero-footprint design to enable patient access, increase space in the operating room and improve workflow.

Robot-assisted surgery remains a hot area in medtech — with Medtronic, J&J and a host of smaller companies seeking to compete against Intuitive.

Adam Sachs, CEO and founder of Vicarious Surgical, was recently a guest on The Robot Report Podcast. Vicarious is developing a robot-assisted surgical system that in 2019 won FDA breakthrough device designation for its virtual reality-based robot-assisted surgical device. He discussed the challenges and keys to developing the system, the opportunities ahead, and debuting on the NYSE via SPAC. You can listen to that interview below.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on sister website MassDevice.

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