Point Robotics' MedTech surgical robot enhances spine surgeries with expanded functionality

News highlights 0

Michael Lo, Head of Corporate Strategy of Point Robotics (left) and Brad Lin, CMO of Point Robotics

Targeting one of the most complex and sensitive parts of the human body, any minor error during a spinal surgery could lead to severe consequences such as infection, nerve damage, or spinal cord injury. This makes spinal surgery a high-risk surgical procedure.

To overcome the challenges, Point Robotics MedTech created a minimally invasive spine surgery robot platform by combining medical expertise and state-of-the-art technologies such as robotic arms, optical positioning, and algorithms. The platform can help surgeons perform complex spinal surgeries with high precision and optimize the patient's medical experience.

Point Robotics' surgical robotics technology is inherited from a professor at Imperial College London with over 30 years of experience. The company was founded in 2016 with support from the National Science Council's Germination Program. It aims to leverage the technical prowess of Taiwan's medical and mechanical industries to develop a spinal surgery robot that assists surgeons in enhancing surgical precision and reducing risks.

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgical Robot with Precision and Reliability

According to Brad Lin, Chief Marketing Officer of Point Robotics, there are two main challenges in existing spine surgeries. First, surgical precision requirements from medical institutions and patients are increasing, especially in minimally invasive surgeries.

Traditional surgeries rely on surgeons' experience and tactile sensation, but this approach has limitations, particularly in tasks like bone grinding, where achieving high precision is more challenging. Moreover, surgeons performing spine surgeries over a long period are prone to wrist and eye fatigue, which can adversely affect surgical quality and career longevity.

The second challenge lies in the increasing expectations of patients regarding surgical outcomes and post-operative recovery periods. Improving surgical efficiency and post-operative recovery outcomes have become significant missions for medical institutions. Not only to achieve precision, surgeries today also aim to minimize incisions and recovery time as much as possible.

While technologies and equipment for spinal surgery have advanced rapidly, there is still room for improvement to meet all those demands. Particularly in the realm of robotic surgery equipment, existing systems are mostly focused on soft tissue surgeries, with fewer applications for hard tissue surgeries. Point Robotics' minimally invasive spine surgery robot and navigation system are perfect for addressing clinical needs today.

Michael Lo, Head of Corporate Strategy of Point Robotics, explained the architecture of their product, which integrates a six-motored robotic end-effector with navigation systems and control technology, combining precision and flexibility. The company's surgical robot uses a robotic end-effector to compensate for deviations from the planned path, enabling real-time tracking of patient movement during surgery. This allows surgeons to perform precise and stable surgeries.

By precisely controlling the robotic end-effector, the surgical robot has expanded its functionality to decompression capabilities. The precision of bone grinding can reach mere paper-thin thickness. During surgery, the force feedback system detects changes in bone density and dynamically adjusts grinding force, depth, and path accordingly to ensure surgical precision and safety.

Point Robotics' Detail-focused Product Development Builds a Reputation

According to Lo, for a medical device to gain industry recognition and successfully commercialize, it needs to overcome technical challenges and undergo lengthy clinical validation. "Robotic technologies are categorized as the high-precision, cutting-edge field, and the medical products are closely related to human safety," he emphasized. Thus, every prototype of a medical device must undergo rigorous validation and continuous communication with clinical physicians to ensure that the product design meets medical needs.

In practical application, variations in each patient's bone density and other external factors can also impact the surgery process and outcomes, presenting challenges from theory to clinical practice and commercialization. Point Robotics' products have undergone iterative modifications and validation to achieve the clinical benefits doctors expect.

Point Robotics' navigation system has been in clinical use since 2023. As of now, it has been utilized in 150 surgeries. The first-generation navigation system and robotic-assisted surgical system were cleared by the U.S. FDA and certificated by Taiwan FDA between 2022 and 2023.

Regarding the product marketing plan, Lo mentioned that because the medical industry is typically cautious about new products, they will initially focus on the navigation system, which has higher market acceptance. Next, the company will develop a decompression surgery robot capable of performing various functions such as bone grinding, assisting surgeons in conducting more spine surgeries and improving surgical efficiency.

According to Lo and Lin, the success of Point Robotics' technology in transferring from concept to product is due not only to the full commitment of the team members but also to the continuously improving ecosystem for startups in Taiwan. For example, while Point Robotics was looking for clinical resources, BE Accelerator – a TTA accelerator partner, helped the company connect with suitable physicians, enabled product testing, and received feedback on suggestions and feasible directions.

The locally enthusiastic startup atmosphere and policy support have also attracted many young overseas Taiwanese entrepreneurs to return home. These entrepreneurs bring back global perspectives and innovative thinking. When combined with Taiwan's technology, medical and manufacturing industries, a virtuous cycle begins.

Looking ahead, Taiwan's startup ecosystem is expected to mature further and be more internationalized. Point Robotics also looks forward to interacting and collaborating with other companies, expanding Taiwan's influence in the global medical technology field.

(Editor's note: The original article was published in TTA Magazine Issue 14. Read more startup stories in TTA Magazines.)

Point Robotics’ robotic-assisted surgical system and navigation system

Point Robotics’ robotic-assisted surgical system and navigation system can help surgeons perform complex minimally invasive surgeries with high precision.