Butterfly Network teams with medical robot startup Mendaera in ultrasound commercialization deal

Butterfly Network has selected the medical robotics startup Mendaera to serve as the first participant in its ultrasound hardware commercialization program. 

The pair aims to deliver an interventional robot that incorporates Butterfly’s semiconductor-based ultrasound technology and imaging software to help guide needle-based procedures in real time, such as biopsies and ablations. 

The Silicon Valley-based Mendaera unveiled itself earlier this year, with the goal of providing a precise, artificial intelligence-powered system capable of being operated with limited staffing, as health systems continue to struggle with workforce shortages and high caseloads.

The startup posted a $24 million series A funding round this past August, led by Lux Capital, and joined by Founders Fund, Operator Partners and Allen & Company. Other backers included Intuitive Surgical and Auris Health founder Fred Moll and former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, the company said.

Mendaera is led by co-founder and CEO Josh DeFonzo, former chief operating officer of Auris before the company and its Monarch bronchoscope robot was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2019 for $3.4 billion.

“At Mendaera, we envision a world where high-quality intervention is available at every care facility, for each and every patient encounter,” DeFonzo said in a statement. “It was a clear choice for us to collaborate with Butterfly on our technology roadmap, given their unique and programmable Ultrasound-on-Chip platform and aligned mission to make ultrasonic imaging and intervention ubiquitous.”

While many current ultrasound systems rely on tailored piezoelectric transducers—materials that convert electricity into sound wave-generating vibrations, typically aimed at either shallow or deep tissues—Butterfly fabricates its transmitters and sensors using a semiconductor circuit design, allowing a single, handheld probe to be used for several different imaging procedures across the whole body.

Through its new Powered by Butterfly program, the company said it plans to collect revenue from each Mendaera unit sold once the robot reaches the market. Both said they expect the system to be submitted for FDA review by 2025.

Earlier this year the company unveiled its Butterfly Garden marketplace for third-party AI applications, offering software development kits to developers looking to build programs for Butterfly’s user base, as well as medical device companies that aim to tap into ultrasound imaging.

Elsewhere, Butterfly announced a five-year collaboration with Forest Neurotech in October, to develop a minimally invasive device for imaging and stimulating the brain using ultrasound, alongside an implanted neural interface. 

This past August, Butterfly said it would be laying off staff as part of a plan to reduce operating costs by an average of $2 million per month, or about $60 million through the end of 2025. It marked some of the first major changes under Butterfly’s new CEO, Joe DeVivo, former executive chairman of AI ultrasound developer Caption Health.