Distalmotion raises $90M to accelerate its global commercialization

The surgical robot Dexter. © Distalmotion

The surgical robot Dexter. © Distalmotion

The Lausanne-based company has developed a revolutionary surgical robot. Already present in Europe, this financing round will among other things enable it to pave the way for its entry into the American market

Making sense of robotic surgery: this is the mission of Distalmotion. Founded in 2012 as a spin-off from EPFL, the company has developed a novel surgical robot for laparoscopic surgeons, the only of its kind, which is about to revolutionize the world of robotic surgery. Its name? Dexter. CE-marked since December 2020, “Dexter shifts the paradigm of robotic surgery by bringing the surgeon back into the sterile field, allowing direct patient access at all times and integrating proven laparoscopic workflows into the robotic setup”, says Michael Friedrich, Distalmotion CEO. “This novel, user-centric approach makes the surgeon the focal point of the procedure, reducing complexity and delivering sought-after simplicity and versatility to the market for robotic surgery.”

Michael Friedrich, Distalmotion CEO. © Distalmotion

Distalmotion recently closed a USD 90 million Series E financing round (led by Revival Healthcare Capital with participation from 415 CAPITAL, as well as existing investors) to support the global commercialization of Dexter. This investment follows the successful completion of Dexter’s first clinical cases. “Leading European hospitals are now spearheading the development of procedure guidelines and training protocols for robotic surgery with Dexter as part of clinical studies and an Early Adopter Program”, says Friedrich. The goal for the coming months is to “accelerate market penetration in Europe and to work closely with the U.S Food and Drug Administration on a US submission supported by the financing.”

Close collaboration with operating room teams

Distalmotion originates from the Robotic Systems Laboratory of the EPFL. The spin-off, since its licensing with the Technology Transfer Office in 2013, has replaced mechanics by mechatronics and hence, completely motorized the surgeon’s gestures in its new product Dexter. The journey to develop a product and proprietary technology that has no room for error and is clinically relevant while also being user-friendly required an iterative, co-development approach and involved working closely with Distalmotion’s main customers: surgeons, nurses and hospital administrations. “By removing complexity and defining an on-demand and hybrid alternative to make robotics more accessible and user-friendly, we really wanted to create a new device that breaks with the traditional robotics paradigm,” says Friedrich. Before obtaining the CE-mark, the company collaborated with more than sixty surgical teams across the best centers in Europe to refine and co-develop a product that addresses the full range of clinical and economic constraints, which have hindered the widespread adoption of robotics in minimally invasive care to date.

“The purely robotic approach developed by the competition makes sense for surgeons who do not have mini-invasive training and practice traditional "open" surgical procedures, but makes little sense for laparoscopic surgeons”, says Friedrich. “Today, unlike 20 years ago, most surgeons in general surgery, gynecology and urology have training in laparoscopic surgery and want to stay close to the patient.” In comparison with robots developed up to now, Dexter gives the surgeon the opportunity to switch, in just a few second, between robotic surgery and laparoscopic at any time during the intervention. Moreover, “Dexter’s open console and platform design empowers surgical teams to work more collaboratively, bringing surgeons, their teams and the patient closer together”. According to Distalmotion, some 12 million procedures per year in the United States and Europe could be performed with Dexter.

A fast-growing enterprise

The company, which currently employs more than 80 people is growing fast and expects to increase its staff by 40% to 50% in the coming year.

“We now have teams in the main markets, throughout Europe, and this will continue as the company becomes more international”, says Friedrich. “One of our strengths is to develop an interesting product in an interesting field, which attracts a lot of talent and attracting the best is crucial for the future of the company”, he adds. “Keeping our enterprise culture while growing is essential for us. We invest very strongly in human capital because without it nothing can be done.”

Laparoscopic surgical techniques: surgical technique that involves small "hole" shaped incisions, specialized instruments and a camera on a flexible tube (a laparoscope or endoscope). This minimally invasive surgery, called keyhole surgery, has many advantages over traditional "open" surgical procedures, including less trauma, reduced infections, faster healing.