Johnson & Johnson to take full ownership of Verb Surgical

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that it is buying out Verily Life Sciences' remaining share of Verb Surgical, the surgical robotics joint venture set up by the two companies in 2015. No financial terms were disclosed, with the transaction expected to close in the first half of 2020.    

Although few details are known about the agreement that Johnson & Johnson and Alphabet's Verily inked when they established Verb, a previous report citing sources close to the matter said that Johnson & Johnson had an option to buy Verily's share. On Friday, Johnson & Johnson indicated that the decision to take full control of Verb came "following a successful strategic collaboration with Verily." 

Commenting on the news, Ashley McEvoy, worldwide chairman for medical devices at Johnson & Johnson, stated "we have reached this important milestone thanks to the progress the Verb team has made with their digital surgery platform and the strong collaboration with Verily, Johnson & Johnson's Ethicon unit and clinicians around the world." She added "we are building a truly differentiated digital surgery ecosystem to change the standard of care for generations to come."

Since the joint venture was established, Johnson & Johnson has never provided many details about Verb's system, apart from touting a 2020 launch target. However, Johnson & Johnson said Friday that combining Verb's "robotics and data science capabilities" with its health care leadership and global reach will advance the company's vision "to make medical interventions smarter, less invasive and more personalised."

The move to take full control of Verb follows the recent appointment of Kurt Azarbarzin as CEO of Verb and Johnson & Johnson's purchase of Auris Health, bringing onboard company founder Fred Moll. The acquisition of Auris accelerated Johnson & Johnson's entry into digital surgery with the Monarch Platform (for related analysis, see The Wider View: Surgery tech heavyweight takes the helm at Verb as 2020 launch deadline looms).

Meanwhile, on Johnson & Johnson's third-quarter earnings call in October, McEvoy indicated that the teams at Verb, as well as at Auris, have conducted end-to-end procedures with the system in multiple different indications and have received "very good feedback from 30-plus surgeons." For further analysis, read The Wider View: How J&J turned around its medtech steamship.

Also on Friday, Johnson & Johnson said that it has acquired Taris Biomedical, which specialises in the development of a novel drug-delivery technology for the treatment of bladder diseases, including cancer.

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