Surgical robot startup Mendaera picks up Avail Medsystems' COVID-era virtual OR assets

During the height of the social distancing era of the COVID-19 pandemic, Avail Medsystems was able to raise $100 million in venture capital funding with a simple pitch to hospitals and the medtech industry: virtual surgery consults.

The former Fierce 15 winner’s goal was to connect clinicians with manufacturers and medical advisors through a live telehealth platform—an objective it had pursued even before the coronavirus’ international spread closed up operations after being founded in 2017 with the hope of getting more sales reps into more surgical centers, digitally.

But as in-person came back into vogue, Avail found itself unable to adjust to the return of the “old normal.” The company abruptly shut down operations last November, after failing to close a new round of VC financing.

Now, Avail’s telepresence technology has found a new home with the surgical robotics startup Mendaera—a Silicon Valley outfit that aims to use the portfolio to support its approach to image-guided, needle-based procedures.

“The acquisition will allow us to work more closely with the clinical community and accelerate the development and adoption of our platform,” Mendaera co-founder and CEO Josh DeFonzo said in a statement. The cost of the transaction was not disclosed.

“More importantly, the combination of robotics and telepresence technology will amplify what healthcare providers are able to do for their patients, ultimately improving care by unlocking new care delivery models,” added DeFonzo, who previously served as the chief operating officer of Auris Health, before it was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in a $3.4 billion deal for its Monarch bronchoscopy robot.

Mendaera also sees its new telehealth platform supporting its broader goal of helping to alleviate workforce shortages and clinician burnout. The company raised $24 million in an August 2023 series A round that was led by Lux Capital and also backed by Auris and Intuitive Surgical founder Fred Moll, among others.

Though the details of its work in artificial intelligence and robotics have so far been kept under wraps, Mendaera previously announced a partnership with the handheld ultrasound developer Butterfly Network, to integrate its imaging hardware for real-time guidance.

“We believe that healthcare systems need solutions that will drive far greater efficiency and equity in the U.S. and abroad,” said Peter Hebert, co-founder and managing partner at Lux Capital, which had also made early investments in Avail. “This acquisition uniquely positions Mendaera to deliver scalable and transformative technology that will create a better future for patients and providers alike.”