A new flexible endoscopy robot, designed to access hard-to-reach places inside the human body, has received official U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance. Called Monarch Platform, the new medical robot has its eyes set on treating a number of diseases and conditions, with the immediate target being lung cancer.
“The use of small cameras and tools to enter the body non-invasively hasn't changed significantly since it was first introduced in the mid-twentieth century, and is still far from realizing its fullest potential,” Josh DeFonzo, chief strategy officer at manufacturer Auris, told Digital Trends. “While endoscopy is one of the safest ways to enter the body, limitations of current endoscopic tools and techniques translate to substandard patient outcomes. Auris developed the Monarch Platform to overcome these limitations. We believe that the Monarch Platform will transform endoscopy by enhancing physicians’ capabilities and dramatically improving clinical outcomes for patients for a variety of disease states.”
Since being founded by surgical robotics pioneer Dr. Frederic Moll six years ago, Auris has raised more than $500 million in equity capital to develop its technology. While Auris’ dream for medical robots still has a way to go before it becomes a fully fledged mainstream reality, Monarch represents an important step. Doctors will be able to control the flexible robot by way of a video game-style controller. Once inside a patient, the robot can record images and potentially make physical interventions.
“The reason lung cancer is so deadly is that the diagnostic and treatment processes are ineffective,” DeFonzo continued. “The majority of lung cancer patients are diagnosed in late stage, when the cancer has already spread beyond its primary location. With lung cancer, patients often have no symptoms. Nodules are typically small, deep in the lungs and difficult to reach, making early stage diagnosis and treatment difficult. The goal of the Monarch Platform is to allow physicians to accurately access small and hard-to-reach nodules early, without incisions and with fewer complications, for diagnosing and targeting treatment.”
DeFonzo said that Monarch is currently intended for use by interventional pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons. Plans are afoot to expand into other clinical areas, too. A limited launch of the robot will take place across the U.S. later this year. In other words, it's coming soon to a hospital near you.