- Verb Surgical announced Wednesday medtech veteran Kurt Azarbarzin will take over as CEO, effective immediately. The company is in the midst of developing a digital surgery platform in partnership with Johnson & Johnson's Ethicon and Verily, a unit of Google parent Alphabet.
- The new CEO, who founded SurgiQuest and led the device company for 10 years, most recently served as the Chief Technology Officer at the CONMED Corporation. Azarbarzin takes over the role from Scott Huennekens, who served in the CEO role since 2015. It is unclear if Huennekens still has a role at Verb.
- J&J executives told investors last week digital surgery was the focus of its second quarter R&D spend as it pushes development of its robotic surgery platforms.
J&J's partnership with Verb Surgical, alongside Auris Health and Orthotaxy, represents the medtech giant's push into the rapidly developing robotic surgery landscape.
While J&J's $3.4 billion acquisition of Auris, along with Auris's CEO Frederic Moll, founder of robotic surgery competitor Intuitive Surgical, has drawn the bulk of attention, Azarbarzin's role is no less critical. He'll be tasked with leading Verb's digital platform towards commercialization.
"Kurt's commercial acumen and legacy of innovative R&D in minimally invasive surgery make him a welcome addition to the team," Verily CEO Andy Conrad said in a statement.
J&J Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels told investors Verb's robotic surgical tool must still undergo significant development, noting J&J, Verb and Verily are in the process of collecting feedback from surgeons. Verb is currently testing the platform in preclinical labs, according to the company.
"We continue to believe our system will address the current limitations of robotic surgeries such as access and reach, the footprint and cost and the workflow and advanced instrumentation to such a much better outcome," Stoffels said.
Azarbarzin will relocate to the San Francisco Bay Area for the new role, Verb said.