Women’s-health-focused pharma Organon has made an early bet on a young medtech startup working to reshape the hysterectomy.
Claria Medical aims to deliver a medical device that turns the removal of the uterus into a minimally invasive, laparoscopic procedure that can be done safer and faster than current surgeries.
With an upfront investment of $8 million taken from its R&D budget, Organon obtained the option to fully acquire Claria and its hardware in the future. A San Francisco-area, pre-series A company, Claria has previously received grant funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
Medical devices aren’t a major departure for the drugmaker. Ahead of its spinout and launch in June 2021, Organon’s corporate parent Merck & Co. jumped to acquire Alydia Health, a former Fierce Medtech Fierce 15 winner.
That $240 million deal set up Organon’s portfolio—which covers a range of birth control medications and implants, as well as other drugs—with Alydia’s innovative Jada system for stemming the loss of blood during postpartum hemorrhage.
“Collaborations such as our agreement with Claria Medical are integral to our business development approach. We search across the entire horizon for potential solutions—be they medicines, devices, or other technologies—that can improve the health of women,” Organon CEO Kevin Ali said in a release.
With more than 500,000 performed per year in the U.S., hysterectomies are one of the most common gynecologic surgery procedures. They are typically performed using morcellation, a time-consuming process where the uterus is cut into smaller pieces before removal.
However, this approach has been known to deposit cells into surrounding tissues. While most cases are benign, some uterine fibroids may harbor hidden cancers, which can cause serious disease after being turned loose inside the body.
The FDA has warned against certain power morcellation approaches for the better part of a decade and in 2020 urged that they only be used with a containment system that can keep cells from escaping into the abdominal cavity.
Claria’s goal is to allow surgeons to remove large, solid masses of tissue through as small a surgical opening as possible, transforming open hysterectomies into minimally invasive procedures that are easier to complete while lowering the risk of potentially spreading tumor cells.
In 2021, the FDA cleared its first surgical robot built for performing hysterectomies transvaginally, also to potentially avoid making large abdominal incisions.
Momentis Surgical’s Anovo system—each formerly branded as Memic Innovative Surgery and the Hominis device, respectively—includes a pair of articulated instruments designed to replicate the human arm with shoulder, elbow and wrist joints. The company completed its first patient cases in June 2022.