Johnson & Johnson has said that Ethicon, part of the Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies, has agreed to buy Auris Health Inc., for approximately $3.4 billion in cash – with as much as an additional $2.35 billion added to the price-tag – if certain milestones are hit.
The deal furthers J&J's move into robotics, according to the company statement. It is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of 2019.
Privately held Auris develops robotic techniques
– currently centering around the treatment of lung cancer. Its Monarch platform is FDA-cleared for diagnostic and therapeutic bronchoscopic procedures.
“In this new era of health care, we’re aiming to simplify surgery, drive efficiency, reduce complications and improve outcomes for patients, ultimately making surgery safer,” Ashley McEvoy, executive vice president, worldwide chairman, Medical Devices, Johnson & Johnson, said in the statement announcing the deal, adding that, “we believe the combination of best-in-class robotics, advanced instrumentation and unparalleled end-to-end connectivity will make a meaningful difference in patient outcomes.”
Auris founder and CEO Dr. Frederic Moll, is joining Johnson & Johnson as part of the deal.
“We’re thrilled to be joining Johnson & Johnson to help push the boundaries of what is possible in medical robotics and improve the lives of patients across the globe,” he said in a statement.
The hope is that the deal will “dramatically accelerate our collective product innovation to develop new interventional solutions that redefine optimal patient outcomes,” he added.
The move, according to the companies, will permit further disruption of the medical innovation market. “With Auris Health’s current focus on lung cancer, the Monarch Platform robotic technology will play an important role within the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson, enabling the development of a differentiated digital solution that addresses key steps in the lung cancer care journey, from diagnosis to early stage intervention, that are central to the company’s commitment to develop solutions that prevent, intercept and cure this deadly disease.”
The Auris Health technology will also find application in other Johnson & Johnson foci of interest, including open, laparoscopic, robotic and endoluminal surgical approaches.
It fits in with the company's recent acquisitions in the robotic space.
In February, 2018, the company acquired Orthotaxy
, a software-enabled surgery technology developer. The move gave Johnson & Johnson access to its proprietary technology in early stage development for total and partial knee replacement.
“Health care providers and surgeons are shifting from volume to value-based care and need technologies and solutions that help reduce costs, improve outcomes and enhance patient satisfaction,” Ciro Romer, company group chair of Johnson & Johnson’s orthopedic's business, DePuy Synthes, told HCB News at the time, adding, “in order for robotic-assisted surgery to continue to play a long-term role in this new environment, the technology must evolve from being a costly surgical add-on into part of a holistic platform that supports customers and patients throughout the episode of care.”
It also fits with the company's earlier strategic partnership to develop the Verb Surgical Platform.
“We are very committed to our partnership with Verily on the development of the Verb Surgical Platform. Collectively, these technologies, together with our market-leading medical implants and solutions, create the foundation of a comprehensive digital ecosystem to help support the surgeon and patient before, during and after surgery,” said McEvoy.
The prototype of the Verb platform was delivered to collaboration partners
in January, 2017. Partners include Ethicon Endo-Surgery and Verily Life Sciences – formerly Google Life Sciences.
The prototype had all five “key” tech elements under development by the partnership – robotics, visualization, advanced instrumentation, data analytics, and connectivity.
"This is a tremendous achievement for Verb and our collaboration partners at Ethicon, and Verily," said Verb Surgical CEO Scott Huennekens at the time.
Full development by over 300 employees around the globe is now underway, according to the Verb website.
These deals are all part of the Johnson & Johnson plan to create “a connected digital ecosystem centered around using data to improve patient outcomes, that leverages world-class robotic technology,” according to the company.