Former Olympus president named CEO of hands-free surgical robot startup

operating room
A 2016 study in Science Translational Medicine compared Activ’s system to manual surgery, laparoscopy and robot-assisted techniques in stitching together intestine tissue in living pigs. (CC0 Creative Commons)

The former president of Olympus' Medical Systems Group, Todd Usen, has taken the helm of a Boston-based startup developing a surgical robot that can autonomously suture soft tissue.

Usen will serve as the first CEO of Activ Surgical, which aims to integrate computer vision technology, artificial intelligence and robotics into its Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) system.

Founded in 2017, Activ is based around the technology developed by Kim and his colleagues at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The company hopes to develop it into a software-centric, hardware-agnostic platform.

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A previous study published in Science Translational Medicine compared the performance of Activ’s early system to manual surgery, laparoscopy and robot-assisted techniques in stitching together separate portions of intestine in living pigs.

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By employing force sensing as well as fluorescent and 3D imaging, the hands-free STAR system was able to outperform the other surgical methods, according to the study.

"I'm incredibly thrilled to have Todd join and lead the Activ Surgical team,” co-founder and Chief Science Officer Peter Kim said in a statement. “Todd's outstanding experience and leadership in the endoscopic space provides a natural synergy to Activ's disruptive vision of delivering enhanced surgical vision and intelligence.”

Usen was president of Olympus Medical Systems Group in the Americas for three years, until November 2018. Prior to that, he served as president of U.S. orthopedic commercial operations for Smith & Nephew, and also held roles in the endoscopy and neurovascular divisions of Boston Scientific.

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