Surgical robot startup Ronovo Surgical (瑞龙诺赋) has bagged close to 200 million yuan (US$27.44 million) in a pre-Series B+ round of funding, tech media outlet 36kr reported today.
The Shanghai-based company secured the fundraiser from a consortium of investors. NRL Capital led the funding, with participation from Suzhou Yipu Equity Financing. All the existing shareholders Lilly Asia Ventures, Vivo Capital, Matrix Partners China, GGV Capital and Longriver Investments also poured money into the deal.
The latest fundraiser came almost eight months after the previous pre-Series B round, which took place in December 2022 and secured “tens of millions of US dollars,” according to Ronovo’s website.
Proceeds from the follow-on round will be spent on clinical registration and R&D, commercialization of its modular surgical robots and brand-building, a company press release says.
The year 2023 is pivotal in the company’s efforts to accelerate the monetization of its core product “Haishanyi,” said John Ma, founder and CEO of Ronovo, who had worked at Intuitive Surgical, Fosun Pharma, Express Scripts and GE Healthcare before setting up shop on his own.
He added this laparoscopic robot will soon undergo clinical trials on humans for the treatment of various diseases.
Dr. John Ma, founder and CEO of Ronovo Surgical
Ronovo claims to have gained an advantage on the back of a differentiation strategy. It focuses on developing modular, agile endoscopic surgical robots which it says are “better aligned” with the needs of different departments at different hospitals.
Simply put, unlike mainstream surgical robots that come in one piece, Ronovo’s products can be dissembled, put back together and remain intact.
Another benefit is that modular surgical robots can improve the standardization of robot-assisted surgeries and shorten the cycle of training for doctors.
This proves crucial in addressing the pain points confronting China’s healthcare system, in particular, the gap between high costs of surgical robots and patients’ ability to pay the expenses.
High cost barriers
High costs have become a barrier to higher penetration of robot-asssited surgery in China. The world-famous da Vinci surgical platform costs around 20 million to 30 million yuan to purchase in China.
The buyers need to shell out an extra 1.5 million yuan a year for the non-durables and maintenance.
An estimate by domestic brokerage firms has put the cost of da Vinci-administered surgery at about 44,000 yuan each, including 18,000 yuan for just switching on the device.
This means surgical robots are priced out of reach for quite a few Chinese hospitals.
Image credit: Unsplash
Among all the hospital divisions, adoption varies wildly. Statistics show that the percentage of robot-assisted surgery is the highest at the urological department, at 44%.
The proportion is much smaller at the thoracic department, at 5%, and even smaller in gynecological and general surgeries. Currently, less than one surgery out of 100 is performed with the aid of robots in China, data shows.
Nonetheless, these departments constitute as much as 99% of the minimally invasive surgeries.
To solve the affordability problem, Ronovo rolled out the “Haishanyi” surgical system, in a bid to meet the diverse needs of multiple departments.
The system, developed entirely in-house with independent technologies, takes into account the real needs of surgeons in performing single-port procedures.
It not just lowers the costs of such surgeries, but also enhances the experience or doctors and expands the range of applications of surgical robots.
Ronovo Surgical possesses self-developed detachable, modular technologies. Compared with legacy surgical robots, which are bulky and difficult to operate, a detachable design is more flexible and efficient and represents the best approach to technical innovation, Lin Xianghong, founding partner at NRL Capital.
“Moreover, its social value can speed up the adoption of endoscopic surgical robots across more departments, helping doctors and benefiting more patients,” Lin explained.