JPM: Microbot Medical unveils disposable device for remote catheter procedures

SAN FRANCISCO—At the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Microbot Medical unveiled a new device that aims to let physicians conduct a catheter-based procedure from outside the operating room, sparing them from radiation exposure and physical stress.

The Liberty robot straps to a patient’s thigh and allows surgeons to advance and manipulate guidewires and microcatheters through the blood vessels via a handheld remote not unlike a video game controller.

Additionally, the sterile robot’s small size—and disposability, with a “one-and-done” design that can be mailed back to the manufacturer for recycling following each endovascular procedure—aims to cut back on hospitals’ capital investments in robotic infrastructure. 

“Can we get rid of the need for a dedicated room and dedicated staff, and streamline the skills of the physician, which would lead to democratizing the procedure?” said Microbot President and CEO Harel Gadot in an interview.

“The beautiful thing about it is that its a true platform. You can do neurovascular procedures, you can do cardiovascular, you can do peripheral,” said Gadot, who also serves as chairman of the board of Xact Robotics and company group chairman of Medx Ventures Group.

The system also works with off-the-shelf catheters and guidewires from other manufacturers, with the goal of providing an open system that won’t force physicians to change their preferences, Gadot said. However, Microbot also plans to offer its own combination catheter-and-guidewire system, which it acquired from CardioSert in May 2018.

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Your reporter, attempting to thread a guidewire through a model
aorta’s celiac trunk and toward the gastric and splenic arteries

Microbot’s next steps include regulatory submissions for FDA marketing approval and potentially a CE mark for different medical needs over the next two years, Gadot said.

The device may also shorten procedure times overall by having interventional radiologists rely on visual cues instead of physical feedback from the guidewire. The robotic system aims to smooth out what may otherwise require multiple pushes to get the catheter into the correct blood vessel, with each attempt carrying the potential to cause damage, according to Microbot’s scientific advisory board chairman Eyal Morag. 

It could also lead to beneficial outcomes outside the patient by lightening the load on the interventional radiologists conducting the minimally invasive procedures.

“We all have such back problems,” said Morag, who is also chairman of radiology and nuclear medicine at Assuta Ashdod Medical Center in Israel. This can include herniated discs and other issues that stem from standing over a patient for hours while wearing heavy lead vests, he said—which, of course, do not catch all of the radiation, either.