Mr. ro­bot

Forbes - - Fact & Comment -

David C. Paul is rid­ing high on a mil­lion-dol­lar ma­chine de­signed to make spinal sur­geons more ac­cu­rate. but how ef­fec­tive is it?

When David C. Paul trav­eled to Phoenix in 2013, he saw the fu­ture of spinal surgery: a ro­bot pro­to­type called the Ex­cel­sius

GPS. Ni­cholas Theodore, one of the ro­bot’s in­ven­tors, re­mem­bers Paul be­ing im­me­di­ately im­pressed. “This is go­ing to change ev­ery­thing,” Paul said, ac­cord­ing to Theodore. A few months later,

Paul bought Theodore’s com­pany, Ex­cel­sius Sur­gi­cal—and the ro­bot with it—for an undis­closed sum.

Paul, 51, couldn’t have hoped for more from the pur­chase. Since 2014, shares of Globus Med­i­cal, Paul’s pub­licly traded de­vice man­u­fac­turer, have more than dou­bled. Just since the ro­bot re­ceived FDA clear­ance in Au­gust 2017, the stock has climbed 70%. Paul, a me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer who left Swiss med­i­cal-de­vice maker Syn­thes and founded Globus, owns nearly a quar­ter of the firm: That stake and re­cent stock sales add up to a $1.3 bil­lion for­tune.

The Ex­cel­sius GPS is one of only two spine-surgery ro­bots on the mar­ket, and Globus, which is based in Audubon, Penn­syl­va­nia, says it can help sur­geons per­form spinal fu­sions by plac­ing screws more quickly and ac­cu­rately. At this point, though, there’s lit­tle large-scale pub­lished data to show that Ex­cel­sius, which costs more than $1 mil­lion per unit, is any bet­ter than a sur­geon putting in the screws on his or her own; Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity re­searchers are pre­par­ing stud­ies on ac­cu­racy and pa­tient out­comes.

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