Titan Medical licenses robotic surgery tech to Intuitive, shuffles C-suite amid 'strategic transition'

After its precarious financial situation led Titan Medical to seek out a sale—without success—lay off nearly all of its employees and, as of this March, be delisted from the Nasdaq, the surgical robotics maker is taking a different tack.

As part of a “strategic transition” announced this week, Titan will shift its primary focus from commercializing its robotic-assisted surgery devices to building out its intellectual property portfolio instead, with an aim of licensing the technologies to other distributors.

Titan has already locked down its first such licensing deal amid the transition. The Canadian company announced late last week that it has inked an agreement with robotic surgery giant Intuitive Surgical. Intuitive is doling out an upfront payment of $7.5 million for a nonexclusive license to all of Titan’s IP, sans the technologies Titan already licensed to Medtronic in an exclusive 2020 deal.

Titan still owns all of the IP included in the Intuitive agreement and has retained the right to license it out to other companies. It may also still continue to develop and commercialize the technologies, even amid the tech maker’s transition away from that arena.

As recently as January of this year—even with a severely pared-down staff—Titan was still making plans to begin clinical trials of its two-instrument Enos single-access robotic surgery system, as well as to start building a three-instrument system that would piggyback on the Enos technology.

The decision to move more into licensing out its IP rather than commercializing the robotics itself comes about half a year after Titan first began looking for “strategic alternatives” that could help keep its head above water.

That review included outreach to more than 55 parties, none of whom expressed interest in acquiring Titan’s business. And though the company said in Monday’s announcement that it has ended its engagement with Raymond James, its partner in the strategic review, it added that it’s still looking into the possibility of “a corporate sale, merger or other business combination, a sale of all or a portion of the company’s assets, strategic investment or other significant transaction.”

Alongside the shift in focus, Titan is also switching up its C-suite. Monday’s announcement included a series of executive changes that will take effect on June 1, and are meant to “further reduce operating cost in the business,” per Titan.

For one, Cary Vance will step down as Titan’s president and CEO after less than a year in the role. He’ll remain a member of the company’s board of directors. The board’s chair, Paul Cataford, will take the helm as interim president and CEO.

Meanwhile, Stephen Lemieux, who was named Titan’s chief financial officer in mid-2021, will also step down from his position. He’ll be replaced by Chien Huang, Titan’s current VP of finance, but will stay on as a consultant throughout the switch-up.

Also transitioning from their current positions into consulting roles are Jasminder Brar, Titan’s VP of legal and IP, general counsel and corporate secretary; Bill Fahey, VP of operations and manufacturing; and Nate Jones, director of human resources. Titan didn’t announce replacements for those three roles.