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From Silicon Valley to Baltimore: Opportunity zone lures surgical robot maker and opens new investment

Meredith Cohn, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Science & Technology News

Leonard Mills, CEO of The Verte Opportunity Fund, on Galen Robotics

Galen is the second opportunity zone investment for the Verte Opportunity Fund. The other was on an Indian reservation. The fund's online description says it will look for "high-growth, disruptive businesses with innovative products and services."

Verte CEO Leonard Mills said the just-formed fund looked to Seigel to identify good bets and Galen fit the financial criteria. The link to Hopkins was a plus.

"We believe the upside is enormous," Mills said of Galen.

The technology was developed at Hopkins' Laboratory of Computational Sensing and Robotics six years ago and licensed to Galen three years ago.

The device essentially offers surgeons a steady third hand, preventing a tiny movement of the surgeon's hand from becoming amplified through the long, skinny tools used in surgeries inside someone's head.

 

"Even rock solid-seeming hands can cause a fleck at the end of the equipment," Saunders said. "And even among the rock solid doctors, no one keeps gifted hands forever."

With the robot, surgeons could more easily and repeatedly snip a cyst on a vocal cord, remove a brain tumor or implant hearing equipment in an ear. It also could allow more doctors to perform certain delicate procedures without jeopardizing patient safety.

Galen hopes to gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the robot next year or in early 2021. Officials say 42 hospitals have expressed interest in the machine so far. And more tools, and procedures, could be added over time, potentially driving up demand for the robots.

Bruce Lichorowic, Galen's president and CEO and another co-founder, said company officials were sure of the need for the technology, based on discussions with surgeons. Robotics are growing part of surgery, but most such equipment is designed for bigger spaces in the body than the head and neck.

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