• Medical company had been developing robot surgery platform
  • Venture to be called Verb Surgical, compete against Intuitive

Johnson & Johnson and Verily Life Sciences LLC, formerly known as Google Life Sciences, have formed a new company to develop the next generation of robotic-assisted tools for surgeons.

The venture, which will be called Verb Surgical Inc., is the latest partnership between the California tech giant and the health-care industry, after earlier collaborations with Biogen Inc., Novartis AG and Sanofi.

“The team has already made meaningful progress on the robotics platform, which is being developed for application across a host of surgical specialties,” Gary Pruden, worldwide chairman of J&J’s medical devices group, said Thursday in a statement.

Robot-assisted surgeries have been growing in popularity, and Verb will compete against companies like Intuitive Surgical Inc., whose device is used for a range of procedures including colorectal surgery and hernia repair. Intuitive’s machine has a physician at the controls and takes advantage of the robot’s slender arms to make smaller incisions that help patients heal more quickly.

Robot System

Verb’s surgical platform will include robotic capabilities as well as medical device technology, developing the features in collaboration with surgeons and hospitals. When J&J and Verily first joined forces in March, they said they would be exploring ways to add advanced imaging and sensors to surgical tools to help doctors during operations. The partnership was designed to advance a prototype that J&J, the world’s largest maker of health-care products, developed as the core of a new robotic surgical system.

Yet such procedures aren’t without risks. A 2013 complaint by the Colorado Medical Board alleged that patients suffered injuries or complications from robotic surgeries, including punctured or torn arteries.

Scott Huennekens will be chief executive officer of Verb, which will be based in Mountain View, California. From April 2002 to February 2015 Huennekens was CEO of Volcano Corp., which specialized in intravascular imaging. Verb’s board will include members from Johnson & Johnson surgical devices unit Ethicon, Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC, Verily and Google.

J&J and Verily didn’t release any financial terms for the new entity.

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