CMR Surgical amasses giant £425M funding round to take its surgery robot global

The field of robotic surgery is poised to take major strides in the near future, and CMR Surgical has shown it aims to compete with the largest players in the medtech industry. With a truly colossal £425 million funding round, or nearly $600 million U.S., it may have the means.

Two major forces are shaping the next generation of these robotic systems: the ability to harvest the data generated, feed it back to surgeons and help standardize outcomes; and modular, movable designs that allow procedures to be performed in more places without heavy capital and infrastructure costs.

CMR, formerly known as Cambridge Medical Robotics, is incorporating both advancements in its Versius system and rolling it out internationally. The former Fierce 15 winner’s latest series D financing—led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 and co-led by Ally Bridge Group—looks to supercharge that strategy.

“This major injection of capital that now values us at $3 billion not only reflects the level of interest we have seen in our product, but also the scale of the business, and will enable significant technology developments and global expansion,” said CEO Per Vegard Nerseth, who joined CMR at the start of last year after managing ABB’s 7,000-employee robotics division.

The financing round was also backed by new international investors RPMI Railpen, Tencent and Chimera as well as CMR’s previous supporters including Watrium, Cambridge Innovation Capital, PFM Health Sciences, GE Healthcare, and LGT and its affiliate Lightrock.

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Versius is designed for minimally invasive procedures, also referred to as keyhole surgery. Using multiple robotic arms mounted on individual wheeled carts, the system can be assembled in different configurations and operating rooms while being controlled from a central console.

That’s a hallmark shared by Medtronic’s Hugo robot—which performed its first patient procedure earlier this month, with a minimally invasive prostatectomy in Santiago, Chile—as well as Asensus Surgical’s Senhance system, which scored a general laparoscopic surgery clearance from the FDA this past March.

By comparison, robotic surgery’s mainstay Da Vinci system by Intuitive Surgical as well as Johnson & Johnson’s upcoming Ottava hardware—born out of the medtech giant’s previous Verb Surgical collaboration with Verily—feature multiple arms and tools mounted together, and connected with the operating table.

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“Demand for minimally invasive robotic surgery is growing rapidly among surgeons and patients, yet high costs have historically hindered adoption,” said Yanni Pipilis, managing partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, highlighting the underpenetrated markets across India, the Middle East and Latin America.

Versius has not yet been approved in the U.S., but it’s a prospect eagerly awaited by CMR, which secured a CE mark in March 2019 and has since placed the system in U.K. hospitals through the National Health Service as well as multiple locations in India.

The company has also inked deals to bring its hardware to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and installed its first systems in Germany and Australia this past February. 

“Germany is a market leader in Europe and paves the way for us to further accelerate our rollout of Versius across a number of new markets in Europe in the coming months,” Nerseth said at the time.

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Meanwhile in the U.K., the Versius system recently completed its first major gynecological procedure, with a complex hysterectomy performed through a much smaller incision compared to open surgery, which typically requires a stay of multiple days in the hospital.