- Intuitive Surgical’s minimally invasive bronchoscopy platform Ion may provide “some of the most exciting advancements in robotic technology” in the coming years, according to analysts at BTIG.
- While Ion contributed an estimated $115 million of the company’s $6.2 billion in revenue last year, the analysts see scope for Intuitive to grow sales by capturing more of the lung biopsy market and expanding into the ablation of tumors.
- Intuitive competes for the bronchoscopy market with Johnson & Johnson’s Monarch platform. The analysts estimate there are about twice as many Ion systems as Monarch devices in use.
Intuitive’s success rests on its da Vinci robotic platform and discussions of the future of the company focus on whether J&J and Medtronic can challenge the dominance of that device, the BTIG analysts said.
“Intuitive's push into robotic bronchoscopy is purposeful, not just simply for the bronchoscopy opportunity, but for its ability to serve as both a diagnostic and therapeutic platform over time (including outside of lung cancer),” the analysts wrote in a note to investors. “We believe some of the most exciting advancements in robotic technology could come to Ion in the years ahead.”
The Ion install base has grown from 50 in the first quarter of 2021 to 376 at last count, according to the analysts, and is forecast to rise to 589 by the end of the year. Even so, robotic systems are only used in a fraction of procedures. BTIG, citing figures from Intuitive and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, estimates that Ion has penetrated 4.7% of the bronchoscopy market.
In the first quarter, J&J said Monarch has been used in 25,000 procedures since its launch. Surgeons have used Ion in almost 41,000 procedures since Intuitive started reporting figures in 2021. Switching more bronchoscopies to Ion may enable Intuitive to grow sales beyond the $161 million the platform is forecast to generate this year.
The analysts also have identified opportunities to expand beyond bronchoscopies. Last year, Intuitive received regulatory approval for a clinical trial of Ion ablation technology. The trial will assess the use of a microwave-based energy source that could expand use of Ion to the ablation of inoperable lung cancers.