Ottava surgical assistant robot finally unveiled by Johnson & Johnson

The Robot Report
Ottava J&J Moll

Dr. Frederic Moll (right) with the Monarch platform he helped create. Source: Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson Services Inc. today shared details on its surgical robotic platform that it said will offer unrivaled flexibility and control compared with the rest of the market. The new Ottava system has six arms to provide more control and flexibility in surgery, while its arms will be integrated into the operating table, said the company.

In addition, the platform has a zero-footprint design to enable patient access, increase space in the operating room, and improve workflow, claimed New Brunswick, N.J.-based J&J.

Ottava to reach new heights, says Moll

In Italian, “Ottava” means to play music an octave higher, according to J&J robotics Chief Development Officer Dr. Frederic Moll, an Intuitive Surgical co-founder who joined J&J through its acquisition of Auris Health for $3.4 billion last year.

“That [an octave higher] is what we mean to enable in medical intervention,” he said during a medical device update presentation today. “We view Ottava as the surgeon’s instrument for orchestrating a new level and elevating the surgical experience.”

Robot-assisted surgery is currently a hot area in medical technology, with J&J, Medtronic and others seeking to take on Intuitive Surgical, whose da Vinci robot is the market leader. J&J claimed that Ottava will offer more flexibility than any currently available system.

“Currently, there is no robotic system that provides robotic control and coordination across a full breadth of procedures,” Moll said. “It is my team’s ambition to enable our platform to improve outcomes across a broad range of disease states.”

J&J plans for further development, trials

Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the U.S., Johnson & Johnson had been planning some kind of robotic surgery reveal in May. The company has been working on combining technologies that came out of its previous Verb Surgical collaboration with the Alphabet life sciences unit Verily — as well as last year’s $3.4 billion purchase of Auris Health and the Monarch platform.

In July, J&J decided to delay filing for 510(k) clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its then-unnamed general surgery robot. The company had announced during its quarterly earnings call a goal of starting its first in-human studies with the system in the second half of 2022.

Moll added that J&J is in an “exciting stage of development,” where the platform is “coming to life.” The company is now planning on beginning verification and validation processes for Ottava in 2021, followed by enrollment in clinical trials for the device in 2022.

Auris Health Monarch

The Monarch robotic surgical platform has received FDA approval. Source: Auris Health

Monarch and digital surgery play

Johnson & Johnson said its digital ecosystem — designed to connect its surgical and robotic platforms  — will power Ottava. The company is also planning on combining it with Auris’ Monarch robotic surgical platform to access and treat challenging anatomy in a minimally invasive way.

Monarch already has FDA clearance for certain indications, but J&J is looking to move the platform toward cancer diagnosis and treatment. The company said it sees the potential to offer endoluminal drug and energy treatment through this avenue.

Localized drug delivery, straight to cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions, offers minimized toxicity, increased efficacy and the potential for new therapies, said Dr. Avi Spira, the global head of J&J’s lung cancer initiative.

J&J said it plans to start first-in-human trials for the Monarch in delivering drug and energy treatment.

“We believe our unified, unique approach will ultimately expand beyond lung cancer,” Spira said. “There’s an opportunity for J&J to further transform the trajectory of human health.”

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