A New Zealand startup that makes fully automated 3D orthopedic surgery planning software announced Wednesday that it has raised $5 million and entered into a partnership with Zimmer Biomet for the co-development and global distribution of its technology.
Formus Labs, which bills itself as the world’s first “first automated 3D planner for joint replacement surgeries”, has received investment from lead investor GD1 (Global from Day One) and others including the Punakaiki Fund, Icehouse Ventures, Pacific Channel and Flying Kiwis. The company plans to use the money to accelerate product development and expansion in the United States
“Everyone knows someone who has had joint replacement surgery, but few know how complex, variable and expensive the process can be,” Dr. Ju Zhang, founder and CEO of Formus Labs, said in a statement. “Our goal is to make orthopedic surgery as easy as possible by equipping surgeons with the latest cutting-edge technology so that every joint replacement has a Formus plan that reduces the need for revisions, inspires confidence and facilitates better patient outcomes, at lower cost.”
Companies have approached the problem of the complexity and variability of a total joint replacement in different ways. Stryker, the Michigan-based orthopedics company, for example, has a surgical robot that the company says makes surgeon experience less important to producing good outcomes for patients undergoing total joint replacement and reducing complications.
And there are a whole host of startups focusing on the field of preoperative surgical planning as a way to take the guesswork out of successful surgery – whether in joint replacement or some other area. Osso VR and FundamentalVR are two companies that leverage virtual reality to train surgeons to help them become better and more efficient surgeons. [Osso VR works with Johnson & Johnson, Stryker and Smith & Nephew, while the latter company announced in 2018 that it was working with Mayo Clinic to develop surgical VR simulation and education products). But Formus Labs’ CEO believes that his company’s solution — is based upon artificial intelligence and biomechanics that produce fully interactive 3D models — are fundamentally superior.
“The Formus Labs [FL] The platform uses AI and ML technology on 3D images to produce the most optimized surgical plan for the patient within an hour. Where other technologies still require manual identification of landmarks, the FL platform is able to do this identification as part of the whole planning process,” Zhang said in an email response. to questions sent by a spokesperson. “3D planning on Formus is automated and fast, taking only an hour of cloud computing time to go from a scan to an optimal plan instead of days or weeks of valuable engineering and surgeon time like this. is the case with competing solutions.”
He also argued that the company’s technology is better than the surgical planning technology offered by companies that allow surgeons to practice with 3D-printed joints.
Unlike 3D printing companies that have to custom design and manufacture an implant for each patient (which takes weeks), Formus Hip works on standard implants that are widely available and ready for hospital use. This again adds to our fast turnaround time, allowing a surgeon to go from a CT plan to a 3D plan in the OR in one hour, which was not possible until now. Our platform has automated the entire surgery planning process, from image processing, generation of 3D models of the patient’s bones, identification of landmarks and anatomical measurements, size optimization and fitting implants and producing OR-ready reports. This is a first on the market.
Formus Labs’ product is set to officially launch later this month in Australia and New Zealand. And it hasn’t quite reached the US market although the company expects FDA clearance in the second quarter of the year. But that didn’t stop Zimmer Biomet from striking a deal with Formus. The software that allows surgeons to plan a hip replacement using Zimmer Biomet hips was actually co-developed by Formus and the Indiana-based medical device maker. And a global distribution agreement means Zimmer Biomet will likely bundle that software with the artificial hips it manufactures when it sells them to suppliers.
Zhang explained that the overall platform is device-independent, even though the hip surgery planning technology only shows hips made by Zimmer.
“In our R&D work, we have demonstrated the ability of the Formus platform to also plan other joints, for example the spine, knee and shoulder,” he said.
Medical device companies have been impacted by the pandemic as patients have been kept out of hospital and elective procedures such as joint replacements have been delayed. Zimmer Biomet and Formus Labs seem to be betting that value-added technology like efficient preoperative surgical planning software can ease the burden on providers and, in turn, reduce system costs by reducing complications and the need for surgery to revision.
“While operational costs and staffing are constant concerns in this time of reduced surgeries, Formus Labs welcomes discussions with hospital systems who want to better understand how our platform can help reduce their costs,” said Zhang. “As revenues are stretched, hospitals and implant providers need more certainty at a faster turnaround time regarding the implants needed for each surgery to reduce costs. The Formus platform is an ideal technology to help hospital systems achieve this certainty while helping surgeons and their teams increase workflow efficiency and deliver better patient outcomes.