CMR Surgical, a British technology company that builds tiny robots used in new surgical procedures has appointed a new CFO in a sign that it is preparing for IPO. Ingeborg Oie has been secured from her position as finance director for the Canadian division of Smith & Nephew, the London-listed global healthcare giant.
CMR Surgical is a start-up founded as recently as 2014 but has already secured private investment of $146 million (£113 million). Early investors include China’s Zhejiang Silk Road Fund, which backed a $100 million investment round last summer. The company’s core activity is the development of tiny robots designed to make the kind of microscopic incisions used in contemporary surgery for hysterectomies, gall bladder removals and hernia repairs.
CMR Surgical is best known for its Versius surgical robot which it claims is currently the smallest in the world. The kind of keyhole surgery techniques CMR’s robots perform minimise pain and recovery times for patients as well as substantially reducing the risk of post-operative infection. Around 800,000 surgical procedures use robots every year globally. However, it is forecast that smaller surgical robots like CMR’s capable of more precision will see that number rise to between 4 and 5 million operations annually over the next decade.
CMR has been working towards regulatory approval of its robotics for use in surgery procedures in Europe and the USA. That objective is not close to being achieved and the company expects to come to market in both territories over the next several months. Any IPO is almost certain to take place after that milestone has been achieved.
Mark Frost, CMR Surgical’s chief executive recently explained the market case for the company’s tiny robot surgeons:
“Robotics brings a big advantage in terms of precision, and also the speed of training. You can train a surgeon to be expert in ‘minimal access techniques’ in about six months. If you were to take that same surgeon and train them to do the procedure manually that would take about 2½ years.”
Surgeons, particularly specialist surgeons of the kind able to perform keyhole surgery, are one of the most expensive human resources in healthcare. Procedures are often delayed for significant periods of time as a direct result of limited availability of surgeons. As such, any technology that is able to speed up the time involved in a surgical procedure, or the number of specialists that need to be involved, has the potential to be extremely lucrative.