Olympus launches VC fund with $50M to back new surgical devices, diagnostics

After spending more than half a century developing its own portfolio of tools and technologies for minimally invasive surgical procedures, Olympus is now looking to share the wealth.

The medtech giant has established a venture capital fund, which it plans to use to invest in startups that are developing new devices, diagnostics and digital tools with a mission of improving outcomes, slashing healthcare costs and improving patients’ quality of life.

Olympus Innovation Ventures is launching with $50 million to be distributed in both initial and follow-on investments. Alongside those cash infusions, the VC fund will also offer its portfolio companies access to healthcare providers and Olympus’ own clinical and technical expertise to help bring their products to market.

“Our investment underscores our commitment to make people’s lives safer, healthier and more fulfilling. Our goal is for this fund to continue our history of innovation and support our long-term growth and transformation,” said Olympus CEO Yasuo Takeuchi.

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The fund is looking specifically for early- and growth-stage startups building tech in Olympus’ own areas of focus. Chief among the company’s priorities is the development of new tools for minimally invasive surgeries in the fields of gastroenterology, respiratory and urology, among others.

That focus dates back to the mid-20th century, when Olympus debuted the world’s first working gastrocamera in 1950, with commercial distribution beginning in subsequent years. Since then, the company has vastly expanded its endoscopic offerings, while also venturing into the development of digital and diagnostic tools—though the latter division was sold off to Beckman Coulter a decade ago.

With its new VC outlet, Olympus will be able to redouble its efforts to “transform the surgery suite,” the company said, while also investing in new devices and therapeutics to improve the detection and treatment of disease.

While remaining a fully owned subsidiary of Olympus Corporation of the Americas, Olympus Innovation Ventures will be managed in part by Touchdown Ventures, which will work in tandem with Olympus’ senior executives to oversee the fund’s operations.

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The fund’s launch comes amid a busy start to Olympus’ second century. In a recently published earnings report for the first half of its current fiscal year, which spans from April 1 to March 31, the 102-year-old company recorded about $3.6 billion in revenue, up a solid 30% from the same period a year ago.

Alongside that boom in income, Olympus has been on something of a shopping spree. In May, it purchased longtime partner Medi-Tate, maker of a minimally invasive therapy for benign prostatic hyperplasia, though financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. That acquisition came only a few months after Olympus’ previous buy, which saw it lay down $340 million to add Veran Medical Technologies’ computer-guided bronchoscopes and cancer biopsy systems to its own respiratory profile.