Intuitive Surgical has made a deal to buy Schölly Fiberoptic’s robotic endoscope business, building on more than 20 years of sourcing technologies from the German company.
The acquisition, announced Monday, will give Intuitive control of minimally invasive visualization systems, 200 staff and three sites involved in the production and repair of robotic technologies.
Intuitive is looking to imaging technologies to help it fend off competition from companies like Medtronic, which is in the process of integrating spine surgery technologies from Mazor Robotics, and Johnson & Johnson, owner of Auris Health, a robotics company led by Intuitive founder Frederic Moll.
Speaking to investors in April, Intuitive CEO Gary Guthart identified imaging as one of the priority areas for R&D investment, which rose sharply in the first quarter. The acquisition of assets from Schölly reflects that focus.
Schölly has played a role in creating several generations of imaging technologies for Intuitive’s da Vinci robotic surgical systems. Some of Schölly’s staff will now play a role in future generations of Intuitive imaging technologies while working at the robotic surgery leader.
"Leading visualization has been a core pillar of our company and we expect it to continue to be important going forward. It makes sense to bring the teams together for both organizations," Brian Miller, Intuitive SVP for systems and vision, said in a statement.
Over the next 18 months, Intuitive will integrate sites in Germany and Massachusetts, plus the 200 workers they employ, into its operation, aiming to strengthen its supply chain and bolster its manufacturing capacity for imaging products.
The acquisition is the latest in a string of deals that have enabled Intuitive to bring work in house. The sequence began in May 2018 when Intuitive paid $38.1 million to buy assets and 60 employees from its Indian distributor, Vattikuti Technologies. Intuitive subsequently struck similar deals with its distributors in China and Taiwan, giving it greater control over its Asia-Pacific sales operation.
Among the distribution deals, Intuitive paid $22 million upfront to acquire intellectual property and “certain key employees” from InTouch Technologies. Intuitive previously partnered with InTouch on projects including the development of informatics systems and the connection of da Vinci robotic surgery devices to a single global network.
News of the latest acquisition comes shortly after Intuitive revealed 20-year veteran Sal Brogna will step down as COO at the end of the year. The company said it will continue to tap into Brogna’s experience on a consultancy basis.