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You may have heard of robots in the operating room during surgery, but what kinds of surgical procedures are they being developed for? And which research institutions and companies are taking the lead? A major surgical robotics company recently asked Quid to analyze academic research on robotic surgery to assess the primary focus areas, major publishers in the field, and the top corporate affiliations and sponsors.

Quid identified 5,339 academic papers from 2015 onwards that included “robotic surgery” or “surgical robots” in their title, abstract, or author keywords. Analysis of the papers’ content classified the papers into 55 different categories. Some focused on the specific surgical methods using robots, while others discussed the types of surgery where they could be beneficial. Within the results, applications for machine learning and automated technology had the largest share (7.3%) of research. Continuum robots, an octopus-like device used for endoscopies and colonoscopies came second (6%), followed by robots used for prostate cancer surgeries (5.6%).

By organizing the results by academic affiliation, we can see the influence of each institution covering robot surgery.  Since research often resulted from a collaboration between multiple groups, Quid filtered out the first-named authors and affiliations for each paper. Then we aggregated the total number of publications, as well as the average number of citations each paper received by others (to measure influence in the research community).  As seen below on the far right, Imperial College London and Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute were the most prolific by volume. In comparison, an academic paper led by Rodboud University Nijmegen Medical Center entitled Surgical Approach to Hysterectomy, and a research led by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Comparing Open Radical cystectomy and Robot-assisted Laparoscopic Radical Cystectomy received the largest number of citations.

While most of the major publishers are university medical centers or research institutes, Quid also explored corporate involvement in research and development. The bar chart below shows the volume of publications around specific topics from research teams led or sponsored by corporations. Outside of academic institutions, Samsung, a conglomerate mostly known for smartphones and consumer electronics, leads in the research and development of robot surgery with a diverse spread of focal areas from Endometrial Cancer (light blue) to Liver Resection (teal). They own a large biotechnology department and numerous medical centers, as well. Major biotech company Intuitive Surgical follows with a large (17%) focus on Augmented Reality, followed by Bosch and Amazon, who focus heavily on Hysterectomy applications for the technology and Head and Neck surgery (a collective 55% and 60%, respectively).

Outside of academic collaboration, Quid looked more closely at the 600 companies who are working on health applications for robots. Investment funding has spiked in recent years with a heavy focus on surgery devices. Auris Health, which designs novel dual-arm microsurgical systems for ophthalmic surgery, received $549.7 million in private funding—the highest investment total in our 10-year period. CMR Surgical Ltd, maker of robotic system Versius for pelvic and abdominal surgery, also received a notable influx $100 million in 2018.

So, where are top firms placing their bets? Quid found that Stryker Corporationa Michigan-based medical technologies firm, leads on acquisitions.  Four of the six companies it has acquired over the past decade focus on surgical navigation, including imaging firm Novadaq Technologies in 2017. Stryker also struck a deal for MAKO Surgical Corporation, maker of robotic-arm assisted devices, in 2013. The other top 8 companies on our list have acquired two companies each, generally with a uniform focus. UnitedHealth Group, for example, appears to be heavily focused on robots for prostate cancer surgery (seen below in yellow), while 3-D Systems Corporation is interested in simulation software (in teal).

Quid assessed thousands of academic papers on the subject of robotic surgery to provide quick insights into the latest research, applications, and players in the budding industry. Diving deeper, Quid measured the influence of academic institutions in the field, examined R&D partnerships with corporations, and looked at investment and acquisition trends.

Interested in how Quid can get you up to speed on an industry? Contact us at hi@quid.com.

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