Puncture Robotic (磅策智能医疗), a surgical robot startup, today announced a Series A+ round of financing valued at close to 100 million yuan (US$13.84 million), led by Shenzhen Capital Group, with participation from HY Capital.
Proceeds raised from this round will go toward product R&D, clinical certification, productivity expansion and globalized operation.
Founded in 2019 and headquartered in Shanghai, Puncture is a medtech firm incubated by business entities affiliated with the prestigious Harbin Institute of Technology, a cradle of robot-focused entrepreneurs.
Puncture’s product pipelines span both hospital-facing and consumer-grade medical robotics. It now mainly manufactures the navigation puncture robotic systems and hair-transplanting robots, for the treatment of alopecia, or hair loss, and removal of tumor.
As one of the country’s first develop of hair-transplanting robots, Puncture’s products now have entered clinical trial.
Statistics from China’s National Health Commission show that more than 250 million people now suffer from alopecia, meaning that one in six people is battling hair loss and receding hairline.
Among this population, twice as many men (164 million) are struggling with baldness as women (89 million), signaling huge market potential for hair transplant services.
Several companies such as Yonghe Group (02279.HK) have carved out a niche by tapping into the burgeoning demand for hair recovery.
Currently, follicular unit extraction (FUE) is the prevalent mode of hair restoration surgery. This is a micro-surgical procedure where a donor’s follicular units are removed one by one and then transplanted in natural occurring groups to the recipient region.
Also known as the strip technique, FUE requires manual extraction of follicular units and thus requires experience and accuracy on the part of dotors.
Performing the extraction at a wrong angle, or cutting an incision too deep into the patient’s scalp will damage the follicular units and decrease the chances of their post-surgery survival.
Meanwhile, hair restoration surgery often takes five to eight hours, posing challenges to the doctor’s physical strength and eyesight.
Robots, as with many other industries, have been favored as a subsitute for human labor thanks to their ability to perform repetitive, tedious tasks with accuracy.
The Hairo ® hair transplanting robot, developed in-house by Puncture, relies on technologies including multi-view stereo positioning, smart surgical route planning, force feedback protection and real-time motion compensation.
By utilizing these technologies, the robot can guide its arm to extract follicular units in a “safe, efficient and accurate” manner, said Puncture. The Hairo ® system has begun to undergo clinical trials since June this year.
“Each human hair is 0.06 mm across, so the overall accuracy [of hair transplanting robots] needs to be one cut above that diameter,” said Zhang Zhaodong, founder and CEO of Puncture Robotics. “Our robots are capable of both precise extraction and transplant of the follicular units.”
In terms of commercialization, the startup has partnered with 160 leading domestic hospitals like Huashan Hospital, Ruijin Hospital and China-Japan Friendship Hospital as well as healthcare providers or hair transplant clinic chains like GE HealthCare, Kuka Med and BeiDuo.
Going forward, it will build more clinical trial centers nationwide for demonstration of its technologies. Efforts to apply for certificates also will get underway, with the firm planning to ship the Hairo ® robots abroad by the end of next year, according to a press release.