ZimVie, Brainlab double down on spine surgery tech tie-up

Earlier this year, ZimVie selected Brainlab to help achieve its goal of building out a comprehensive spinal surgery system through a partnership—rather than starting from scratch—and, so far, the company appears to have chosen correctly.

Case in point: ZimVie announced Thursday that it’s expanding the terms of its collaboration with Brainlab. Now, in addition to integrating its own spinal fixation devices with Brainlab’s surgical imaging, planning and navigation tools to make them compatible for use by surgeons around the world, ZimVie has signed on to co-market Brainlab’s technology alongside its own devices.

“We will benefit from a complementary customer base with little overlap in existing accounts,” Rebecca Whitney, president of ZimVie’s global spine business, said in the announcement. “The introduction of the Brainlab portfolio of enabling technologies to ZimVie surgeon customers represents potential upside for both companies and helps us to make an impact on the lives of physicians and patients.”

The addition of the co-marketing agreement feeds into ZimVie’s recent focus on “expanding our portfolio with enabling technology to drive greater adoption across our spine portfolio,” CEO Vafa Jamali added in the release.

ZimVie first announced the collaboration with Brainlab in its fourth-quarter earnings report in March. It brought the two companies together to adapt the former’s Vital and Virage minimally invasive spinal fixation systems with the latter’s spine-specific products. That includes Brainlab’s software offerings, which use artificial intelligence, mixed reality and other high-tech tools to build digital models of each patient’s anatomy that can help guide surgeons through an entire procedure as well as hardware including robotic assistants and imaging machines.

During a call with investors alongside the release of that full-year earnings report, Jamali said their collaborative work had already begun.

The CEO described how the partnership would fulfill a plan dating back to ZimVie’s earliest days, when it spun out from Zimmer Biomet as a standalone spine- and dentistry-focused business in the spring of 2022.

“At the time of the spin, I announced that we would partner, rather than build, an enabling technology offering with an established leader in the space, and Brainlab fits exactly with our strategy to leverage broadly compatible solutions with an established footprint to drive greater pull-through across our spine portfolio,” he said.

The Brainlab partnership will also check off another box for ZimVie: boosting its spine portfolio, where net sales fell nearly 17% year over year during its first year as a standalone company.

ZimVie “had some gaps” in the spine portfolio, Jamali said on the call, as well as “some commercial activities that we uncovered through the year that were frankly suboptimal.”

“We need to really perform and manage some of our commercial operations. With all that volatility inside spine, we focused on the portfolio,” he continued. “So, we added an opportunity to do an R&D program with Brainlab. That’s going to fill a gap for us with respect to enabling technology. It’s a gap that we had coming out of Zimmer Biomet that I think we’ve effectively filled, and we’ll start to work toward that.”