NEW BRUNSWICK – Johnson & Johnson announced on Thursday it has established alongside Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) a new independent company to develop robotic-assisted systems for surgery that promise to be significantly smaller and smarter than those available on the market today. Besides, these state-of-the-art tools will reduce costs in order to help improve the standard of healthcare. The new firm has been named Verb Surgical Inc.

Google’s research unit was formerly known as Google Life Sciences. Earlier this year, the giant tech company changed its name to Verily Life Sciences LLC, after an announcement made along with J&J in March about their efforts to create revolutionary robotics for the operating room.

Photo: The Ohio State University.
A photo of a common robotic surgery table, one of the big technological improvements in modern medicine. Photo: The Ohio State University.

The robotic systems currently used worldwide are the size of a compact car and the surgeon must sit at a control panel about 10 feet from the patient to carry out the procedure, according to Gary Pruden, global chairman of J&J’s medical devices group. In contrast, he said, Verb’s robot will be around 20 percent the size so that the surgeon can operate much closer to the patient. Moreover, it will remarkably reduce the costs, considering that now robotic systems can cost about $2 million or even more, said Pruden.

Another characteristic that will certainly make Verb’s technology more competitive is the fact that it will be designed for a large number of operations, such as thoracic surgery, colorectal surgery and bariatric weight loss procedure, as stated by J&J. Most current robots are limited to basic practices like cancerous prostate glands removal and gynecological surgery.

“The team has already made meaningful progress on the robotics platform, which is being developed for application across a host of surgical specialties,” as Pruden pointed out.

Verb’s platform of surgery will consist of both robotic facilities and medical device technology, as it will be working on the systems’ development with the help of surgeons and hospitals. When the California-based tech company and the healthcare firm announced their partnership in March, they suggested they would explore methods to include advanced imaging and sensors to their surgical tools.

Verb is not alone in the field of robotic surgery though. It will have to compete against firms like Intuitive Surgical Inc., which has developed a system commonly used in a wide variety of operations, including colorectal surgery and hernia repair. This robot, operated by a physician, has very slender arms designed to make small incisions so that patients can heal in a shorter period of time.

Nevertheless, that type of procedures imply several risks. In 2013, the Colorado Medical Board complained that patients suffered injuries and other kinds of complications that included punctured or torn arteries.

Source: Bloomberg