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How Auris Health’s J&J Acquisition Could Impact Med-Tech Industry

Feb 13 2019

Wall Street Journal

Johnson & Johnson's deal to buy Auris Health Inc. could have major impact across the entire med-tech industry, according to the Wall Street Journal. At $3.4 billion, the cash deal is the largest acquisition of a venture-backed medical device company to date.

Peter Hébert, Managing Partner of Auris investor Lux Capital, was interviewed in the article. Hébert said that Auris combined the expertise of robotics, computer vision, software, and other fields to create the Monarch Platform, hiring employees from both tech companies and med-tech veterans. He believes that Auris's success could bring more talented engineers into the med-tech space and drive more ambition among other medical device companies. Hébert said, "I wouldn't be surprised if you saw boards at large medical-device companies (reassessing) their strategy and whether they're playing it too safe, and whether they have innovation on their road map."

Auris began at Columbia University with scientists who were studying tiny robotic instruments designed to be used in procedures in areas of the body that are difficult to reach without manual techniques, like the back of the eye or the inner ear. This technology would make it possible for surgeons to use flexible robotic tools for these procedures instead. Dr. Fred Moll, who also co-founded Intuitive Surgical, Restoration Robotics, and Hansen Medical, became CEO of Auris in 2012. Dr. Moll's expertise in robotics has been a great asset to Auris. Dr. Bijan Salehizadeh, Auris board member and former Highland general partner, said of Dr. Moll, "Fred is the Steve Jobs of health-care and medical devices. He is the singular entrepreneur in this space."

Auris's first application for the Monarch Platform is lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death. The Monarch Platform helps physicians access hard-to-reach nodules in the lungs with consistent vision and control, allowing for greater accuracy with diagnosis. Auris plans on expanding the platform to other treatment areas in the future. Highland Partner Corey Mulloy notes that the broader capabilities of the Monarch Platform compared to other robotic surgery players make it an attractive target, saying "There's real scarcity value in robotic surgery today."

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