Johnson & Johnson MedTech has set a new timeline for the development of its highly anticipated entry into the competitive global robotic surgery market. The company announced its intention to seek FDA approval for US clinical trials of the Ottava system in the second half of the coming year. The Ottava system is designed to be compatible with operating rooms worldwide.
Initially, Ottava was expected to undergo its first human trials in late 2022. However, technical challenges and disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic had previously delayed Ottava’s development timeline. The robot’s origins trace back to a joint venture between J&J and Verily, Google’s life science-focused sister company. Originally known as Verb Surgical, the secretive project was launched in late 2015 with the goal of shaping the future of surgery, often referred to as “Surgery 4.0.” J&J eventually took over the project entirely and acquired Verily’s stake in December 2019.
Ottava aims to compete with industry leader Intuitive Surgical and its da Vinci system, as well as newer entrants from Medtronic and CMR Surgical. While Intuitive’s da Vinci system inspired competitors to offer smaller, modular solutions, Ottava takes a different approach by integrating the robotic hardware directly into a standard-sized patient bed. Equipped with J&J’s Ethicon surgical instruments, Ottava is designed to have an “invisible design,” with its robotic arms being concealed beneath the surgical table when not in use.
“Johnson & Johnson was born in surgery with the advent of sterile sutures, and we have since helped surgeons improve care for patients by offering transformative technologies across all types of surgery. We believe the future of surgery is personal. Starting with the human impact – the connection between the patient, surgeon, and OR staff – we are unlocking what science and technology can do to improve the surgical experience and health outcomes for everyone involved. OTTAVA is designed to consistently deliver this experience in any OR globally.”
– Hani Abouhalka, Company Group Chairman, Robotics & Digital, Johnson & Johnson MedTech
The adaptable system features four arms (down from the originally reported maximum of six) that can be synchronized with adjustments of the table, allowing clinicians to reposition the patient without disrupting the procedure. Once regulatory approvals are obtained, Ottava will join J&J’s robotic portfolio alongside the Monarch platform, a flexible lung endoscopy system developed by Auris Health, and the Velys robot, which assists in knee replacement surgeries.
In comparison, Medtronic’s Hugo robot received approvals in Europe, Canada, and Japan in 2022 and began clinical trials in the U.S. last December. CMR Surgical, on the other hand, secured significant venture capital funding and has expansion plans and collaborations with J&J to bundle its Versius robots with Ethicon instrumentation for minimally invasive procedures.