Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies just announced the acquisition of French company Orthotaxy, a developer of robot-assisted orthopedic surgery solutions, including for knee replacement surgery.
Founded in 2009, Orthotaxy's knee replacement technology is still under development, but the acquisition could signal the next big category of robot-assisted surgical solutions.
Approximately 780,000 knee replacements are performed in the US each year, a number that's expected to rise to 3.48 million by 2030.
As a basis of comparison, the Da Vinci Surgical System by Intuitive Surgical became a blockbuster thanks to its prolific use in prostate surgery.
There are roughly 90,000 radical prostatectomies performed each year, and about 70 percent of those are carried out with the assistance of a robot. The Da Vinci is far and away the most commonly used system.
Intuitive's market cap is currently $47 billion. It's easy to see why Johnson & Johnson is positioning itself as leader in the much-larger orthopedic surgery market.
There's currently a rush to develop new robot-assisted surgical devices. Intuitive, the sector's elder statesman, has a number of lucrative patents relating to robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery.
Licensing deals, like last Intuitive's agreement last year with JustRight Surgical, which has patents relating to robot-assisted pediatric surgery, have further guaranteed its reach in operating rooms around the world.
But companies like Auris Surgical, led by Intuitive co-founder Federic Moll, have staked potentially lucrative flags on different parts of the patient. Many of Auris's patents relate to minimally-invasive surgeries on delicate tissues, such as the lungs.
Last year, Auris spent $80 million acquiring Hansen Medical, which has a trove of valuable patents relevant to robotic surgery.
The size of the deal between Johnson & Johnson and Orthotaxy hasn't been disclosed, nor is there a timeline for bringing a surgical product to market.