Surgeons may not yet have the ability to shrink themselves down and go on a “Magic School Bus”-like journey through the human body, but Beyeonics’ technology can get them pretty close.
Beyeonics Surgical and Beyeonics Vision, both spinouts of the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems, have developed an imaging system that completely immerses physicians in surgical camera feeds throughout a procedure.
Built using technology originally developed for the aerospace industry, the Beyeonics One system is centered around an imaging unit equipped with 3D stereoscopic cameras. During surgery, high-resolution video from those cameras is transmitted to a touchscreen on the unit, an optional external display, and—using augmented reality and artificial intelligence technologies—a head-mounted monitor that gives surgeons an up-close, immersive view through the microscope.
The headset is controlled by head gesture commands and a footswitch. Surgeons can use these to repeatedly change their views: from the actual surgical field to an interior microscopic view of the procedure, overlaid with data from a patient’s health record, pre-op diagnostic tests and surgical device readings.
So far, the system has been used in hundreds of cataract and retina surgeries, under the purview of Beyeonics Vision. Future products from Beyeonics Surgical, meanwhile, will use similar visualization technologies to develop surgical tools for orthopedics, neurology, plastic surgery and more, according to the companies.
And to support plans to begin the Beyeonics One system's U.S. commercialization by the end of this year, the two firms have closed a financing round totaling $36 million.
The bulk of the funding came in the form of a venture investment of $26 million in both Beyeonics Surgical and Beyeonics Vision, led by TechWald Holding and Alive Israel HealthTech, with added participation from existing Beyeonics investors LR Group, XT Hi-Tech, Aurum Ventures and Mivtach Shamir. The rest of the financing came from BVI Medical, the Massachusetts-based maker of surgical tools for ophthalmology, which contributed a $10 million convertible loan to Beyeonics Vision.
As the group of investors upped their holdings in Beyeonics, Elbit Systems will now serve as only a minority shareholder in its two ventures, the company said.
“We are proud to have spun off companies that leverage some of our unique technologies to materially enhance surgeons’ capabilities in the operating room,” said Bezhalel Machlis, Elbit’s president and CEO. “We hope this investment will enable Beyeonics Surgical and Beyeonics Vision to expand product development, to include additional surgical applications and to accelerate commercialization.”
Augmented reality is fast becoming all the rage in surgical technology. Just last week, Activ Surgical took in a $45 million financing of its own to support its AR-based surgical software suite.
Rather than immersing surgeons inside a surgical camera’s view, ActivInsights uses AR to enhance existing monitor readouts. The first program in the software suite, for example, overlays real-time measurements of tissue perfusion onto an endoscopic camera feed, helping surgical teams assess blood flow throughout an operation without requiring the injection of fluorescent dyes.