Verb Surgical unveils its first prototype system

Verily and Ethicon’s robotics joint venture, Verb Surgical, announced Thursday that it unveiled its first digital surgery prototype to its partners at the companies as well as to execs from parent companies Alphabet and Johnson & Johnson.

The announcement comes nearly two years after J&J initially partnered with what was then called Google Life Sciences to advance robotic-assisted surgery, and just over a year following the announcement of the pair’s JV, Verb.

The prototype encompasses all five of Verb’s “technology pillars,” the company said, namely robotics, visualization, advanced instrumentation, data analytics and connectivity. A Verb spokesman declined to share further details of the system.

"Verb is a company driven by taking action for surgeons and patients. Completing this prototype milestone was an achievement that we aimed for a year ago, and I'm excited to say we achieved it and are on track with our development schedule to deliver Surgery 4.0 with our platform," said Verb CEO Scott Huennekens in a statement.

While Verb Surgical was set up to focus on robotic surgery, “Surgery 4.0,” as Huennekens refers to it, is “digital surgery,” the next step in the evolution of surgery following open surgery, minimally invasive surgery and robotic surgery.

"The team has made important progress since Verb was formed in August 2015,” said Gary Pruden, executive vice president and worldwide chairman of medical devices at J&J. "The digitally enabled surgery platform is a great example of how healthcare can be transformed through innovation.”

Verb Surgical is among a troop of companies seeking to unseat Intuitive Surgical as the pre-eminent robotic surgery company. But early last year, the robotics giant said it was unconcerned by competition from potential rivals such as J&J and Medtronic.