CEO: Dr. Frederic Moll
Based: San Carlos, California
Since its founding, Auris has operated in stealth mode, disclosing virtually nothing and billing itself only as “a company based in Silicon Valley.”
What we know about Auris, we find in bits and pieces. Back in 2013, the company unveiled a partnership with Biolase to develop a robotic surgery system for cataract removal surgery. The new system was to be based on Biolase’s tissue-cutting technology, Waterlase, which combines water, air and laser energy to conduct dental procedures. But come June 2016, it wasn’t an ophthalmic surgery system that earned the secretive company an FDA nod—it was a robot for endoluminal surgery.
The FDA cleared the Auris Robotic Endoscopy System (ARES) last June. The clearance allows the use of the system as a bronchoscope to visualize and treat lung conditions. The system avoids incisions by inserting flexible tubes through the body’s natural openings to treat ailments of the lungs. The device has the potential to make endoscopic surgery easier for surgeons and could also make surgery an option for patients too frail to withstand the large incisions required in regular surgery.
What makes Auris fierce
Auris isn’t Frederic Moll’s first rodeo—the robotic surgery veteran helped found the sector’s mainstay, Intuitive Surgical, as well as Hansen Medical, which markets robotic systems focused on catheter-based, intravascular procedures. And while Moll’s latest project has been keeping mum on its ops, it still managed to pick up an impressive $150 million in financing in September 2015.
The following April, Auris’ intentions became a little clearer when it dropped $80 million on Hansen, adding the company’s flexible robotics capabilities to Auris’ still undisclosed stable. While Hansen’s tech never really gained traction despite a 2006 IPO—it struck a cross-licensing pact with Intuitive. At the time, Auris investors poured in $49 million into the company, bumping up its total raised to $235 million.
What to look for
Auris has been operating in stealth mode—it isn’t in Clinicaltrials.gov, and IEEE Spectrum reported in June that it conducted a clinical trial for a small bronchoscope in Costa Rica in 2014. The company holds patents relating to a cataract surgery robot and has also filed patents related to endoluminal surgery, IEEE Spectrum reported.
Auris didn’t publicize its FDA clearance, nor has it officially introduced the ARES platform. But its secretive nature hasn’t stopped it from securing funding from high-profile backers, such as the Peter Thiel-backed Mithril Capital Management and Lux Capital. — Amirah Al Idrus, @FierceBiotech