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Virtual Incision secures $11.2 million, led by Bluestem Capital


Photo courtesy of Virtual Incision

A startup company built from collaborative research efforts at two University of Nebraska campuses has announced it has secured $11.2 million in equity financing.

Virtual Incision Corporation received the investment, led by Bluestem Capital of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with support from existing investors including PrairieGold Venture Partners, also of Sioux Falls. Virtual Incision has also received funding from Nebraska’s public-private venture development organization Invest Nebraska.

Virtual Incision is developing a surgical robot that could turn highly-invasive surgeries into laparoscopic procedures. The concept was developed through collaboration between University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) professor of surgery, Dmitry Oleynikov, MD and University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) engineering professor Shane Farritor, Ph.D.

“I think Virtual Incision’s technology has the potential to make a significant impact for hundreds of thousands of patients,” Dr. Farritor said. “Our first application will be in surgery for colon cancer. VIC technology aims to reduce the invasiveness of these procedures and significantly reduce hospital stays and recovery times.”

Funding will allow a feasibility study

The funding will support a feasibility study of the company’s miniaturized virtual robot for colon resection. More than two million patients undergo this procedure globally each year. This is normally a complicated surgical procedure involving an 8-12 inch incision to remove damaged or diseased sections. Recovery time from the surgery is up to six weeks.

“Virtual Incision seeks to enable a minimally invasive approach to a variety of procedures that are typically performed ’open’ today, with the potential to improve clinical outcomes and health care costs, which would benefit all stakeholders – patients, physicians, hospitals and payors,” said John Murphy, CEO, Virtual Incision.

“We are excited that our technology holds the promise to make a meaningful impact for patients with colon conditions, who can face difficult procedures and long recovery times with traditional techniques.”

The robot is designed to utilize existing tools and techniques familiar to surgeons. It will not require a dedicated operating room or specialized infrastructure, and, with its small size, it is expected to be significantly less expensive than existing alternatives.

A robot that does the surgery inside you

In contrast to today’s large mainframe-like robots that reach into the body from outside the patient, Virtual Incision’s less-invasive robot platform design features a small, self-contained surgical device that is inserted in its entirety through a single incision in the patient’s abdomen.

“The team developing Virtual Incision’s technology represent true pioneers in the fields of robotics and surgery. Paired with its best-in-class capital efficiency and the guidance of proven medtech veterans, Virtual Incision is poised to deliver a disruptive approach to surgeries that could make a significant impact for patients and the health care system,” said Steve Kirby, founding partner at Bluestem Capital and Virtual Incision board member.

Intellectual property rights and licensing for the device were secured by UNeMed, the technology transfer and commercialization office of UNMC. Virtual Incision now has a lab on Nebraska Innovation Campus but began as a tenant at Turbine Flats, a non-profit entrepreneurial collaborative located near the UNL City Campus.

Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.

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