Investing in Medical Robotics

By Kirsteen Mackay

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Medical robotics are rapidly advancing with the potential to revolutionize modern healthcare. This opens up some great investment opportunities.

Source: Adobe Stock Images

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Robotic innovation in healthcare is becoming increasingly commonplace. From training to surgeries, research, and therapy, medical robots are in high demand. Next-generation Smart hospitals have robotics that can help reduce infections, viruses, and bacteria.

Meanwhile, 'service robots' can deliver medicines and sanitize rooms. This will help minimize human contact, particularly in vulnerable environments.

The far-reaching effects of the global pandemic highlight the need for enhanced hygiene in critical care settings. Furthermore, robotic-assisted surgery and robots used in rehab are also increasingly prevalent.

The total addressable market for healthcare robotics is vast, but predictions vary. According to one research report, the global medical robot market is expected to reach $12.7bn by 2025, up from $5.9bn in 2020 at a CAGR of 16.5%.

The most significant barrier to growth is cost. But as more prominent companies get on board, lower prices should follow increased production and R&D.

Source: Adobe - Surgical room in hospital with robotic technology equipment, machine arm surgeon in the futuristic operation room. Minimal invasive surgical innovation, medical robot surgery with 3D view endoscopy

Read on to discover a selection of publicly traded companies working in the field of medical robotics.

Boston Dynamics

Boston Dynamics is building a range of next-generation robots with human-like characteristics. One of these, Spot, the robotic dog, is being adapted for use in hospitals. Early in the pandemic, Spot was deployed at a Boston hospital to work as a mobile telemedicine platform to help triage patients remotely.

This led the company to open-source its work to empower external mobile robotics platforms to leverage its resources to develop help for frontline healthcare workers further.

Boston Dynamics Spot the Robotic Dog - Source: Adobe Stock images

From here, Boston Dynamics is advancing R&D into a remote vital inspection to remotely measure body temperature, respiratory rate, pulse rate, and oxygen saturation. It is also looking at robot-led disinfection using UV-C light and other technology.

Spot has since expanded into a range of robotic dogs with advanced features. Spot Enterprise can operate in remote and dangerous locations with a self-charging dock with a longer deployment time. The company has also introduced Spot Arm to help Spot open and shut valves, turn handles and pull levers, meaning it can open and close doors.

MONTREAL, CANADA - JUNE 24, 2016: Boston Dynamics web page under a magnifying glass. Boston Dynamics is the leading provider of human simulation software, tools, and solutions. Source: Adobe Stock

For the future of humanoid robotics, Boston Dynamics is the leader of the pack. It is owned by SoftBank Group (OTCMKTS: SFTBY) and Hyundai Motor Group (OTCMKTS: HYMTF).

Intuitive Surgical

Founded in 1995, Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ: ISGR) is the most prominent medical robotics company, thanks to its Da Vinci and Ion systems. It has a $121bn market cap.

Intuitive Surgical acquired its renowned Da Vinci robotic surgical system from a Stanford University project in the nineties. The company is now operating its fourth-generation Da Vinci Surgical Systems to advance Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) across a broad spectrum of surgical procedures.

There are now approximately 6,335 Da Vinci surgical robot systems installed around the world.

Over the past five years, the Intuitive Surgical share price has soared:

Intuitive Surgical beats NASDAQ and S&P 500 - Source: FactSet financial data and analytics

Unfortunately for Intuitive, several of its patents are expiring, opening the doors to competition. And this comes as technological advancements in robotics are coming fast, so the space is hotting up.

Both Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) and Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) have acquired surgical-robot start-ups, while newcomer Vicarious Surgical (NYSE: RBOT) is bringing a fresh and innovative approach to robotic surgery.

Vicarious Surgical

Vicarious Surgical, a company looking to shake up the robotic surgery market, recently went public via SPAC D8 Holdings Corp.

Backed by Bill Gates and Becton Dickinson, it has ambitious plans to take on some of the industry's leading players, including Intuitive Surgical, Johnson & Johnson, and Medtronic. The company aims to make abdominal surgery faster, easier, and less complex with a tiny robot that enters the patient's abdomen through a single incision. It is starting with hernia repairs.

Vicarious hopes to have its robots on the market by 2023, with a $1bn annual revenue target by 2027.

Accuray

Accuray (NASDAQ: ARAY) develops, manufactures, and sells radiotherapy systems for alternative cancer treatments globally. The company uses medical robots in cancer treatments and surgeries.

The Accuray CyberKnife System is the first surgical robot to administer radiotherapy. This helps pinpoint the area to be treated, reducing the potential damage to healthy tissue.

Stryker

Stryker (NYSE: SYK) is a large biotech company in the US. It operates through three segments: Orthopaedics, MedSurg, and Neurotechnology and Spine.

The company manufactures robotic-arm assisted surgery machines.

Stryker Mako robots assist surgeons in joint surgeries for partial and total hip and knee replacements, using 3D modeling of bone anatomy.

Source: Adobe Stock Images - Sep 16, 2019, Fremont / CA / USA - Stryker Corporation logo at their headquarters in Silicon Valley; Stryker Corporation is a Fortune 500 medical technologies firm

AVRA Medical Robotics

AVRA Medical Robotics, Inc. (OTCMKTS: AVMR) is developing a prototype surgical robotic device supporting minimal invasive surgical facial corrections. The firm also develops and commercializes intelligent medical robotic systems.

AVRA is a nano-cap stock with a $3.6m market cap.

Medtronic

Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) is a medical equipment company based in Ireland. It operates through four segments: Cardiovascular Portfolio, Neuroscience Portfolio, Medical-Surgical Portfolio, and Diabetes Operating Unit.

In 2018, Medtronic bought Mazor Robotics, which builds spine and brain surgical guidance systems for minimally invasive procedures.

The company has a $158bn market cap and offers a 2% dividend yield.

GE Healthcare

GE Healthcare (NYSE:GE) is to acquire BK Medical from private-equity firm Altaris Capital Partner. It will pay $1.45bn to extend its ultrasound business into surgical visualization. This is used to guide surgeons during minimally invasive and robotic surgeries. It also helps surgeons visualize deep tissue during procedures in neuro and abdominal surgery, and in ultrasound urology.

Innovation all around

Many universities and private companies are also developing some incredible new robots. For instance, The University of Hertfordshire in the UK has developed a child-like robot called Kaspar, a social companion to children with autism and other communication difficulties.

Meanwhile, Xenex Disinfection Services is a company providing a pesticidal device for cleaning healthcare facilities. It offers LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robot and Disinfection Pod, which integrates into hospital cleaning operations and eliminates harmful bacteria, viruses, and spores that can cause hospital-acquired infections in the patient environment. Xenex Disinfection Services has raised over $90m in private funding.

Source: Adobe Stock Images - Medical robot rpa automation modern technology in medicine concept

What can go wrong?

There are several medical robotics stock options open to retail investors. But some are particularly small and speculative.

The ongoing battle against Covid-19 may continue to have a detrimental effect on elective surgeries. This could impact some medical robotics stocks short term. But once things are under control, demand for surgeries should bounce back with a vengeance.

Where's the value?

  • Healthcare is rapidly changing. Advancements in technology and rising competition are bringing innovative solutions via medical robotics.

  • Improving patient care and outcomes is driving investment in the space.

  • There are fast-growing segments within the medical robotics sector

  • Aging populations are increasing demand for surgeries

  • Lack of healthcare staff raises demand for robotic solutions

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Topics:
Healthcare Equipment
Healthcare Services
Industries:
Healthcare
Companies:
Accurayorporated
Stryker
Intuitive Surgical

Author: Kirsteen Mackay

This article does not provide any financial advice and is not a recommendation to deal in any securities or product. Investments may fall in value and an investor may lose some or all of their investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance.

Kirsteen Mackay does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the above article.

Kirsteen Mackay has not been paid to produce this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

Digitonic Ltd, the owner of ValueTheMarkets.com, does not hold a position or positions in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the above article.

Digitonic Ltd, the owner of ValueTheMarkets.com, has not been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.