Activ Surgical Raises $11M to Improve Surgery Outcomes with Computer Vision

by Tatum Hunter
October 29, 2019
Boston healthtech biotech jobs
photo via activ surgical

Autonomous cars, in theory, will use computer vision, artificial intelligence and novel sensors to take in data from the world around them and use it to make safe decisions. 

But highways aren’t the only places these technologies are useful. They can also help physicians make better decisions and improve patient outcomes during robotically-assisted or endoscopic procedures. 

Boston healthtech startup Activ Surgical wants to make that vision a reality for doctors — whether they’re in a well-funded big city facility or a small-town hospital. It announced today it raised an $11 million Series A in preparation for the commercial launch of its first product ActivSight, a software and sensing platform that gives physicians real-time visual data and images during surgery.

Part of that visual data comes from what Activ calls “intelligent light,” which will help surgeons work around important pieces of anatomy, find warning signs like sentinel nodes and detect blood flow without the use of dyes. Doctors can integrate ActivSight with their existing scopes, robotics and visualization systems, which the company hopes will speed adoption of the product, CEO Todd Usen told Built In. 

“[The mobile application] Waze tells you not to go a certain way on the highway, because up ahead there’s a lot of traffic. We’re going to do a similar thing. We’re going to tell surgeons, ‘What you can’t see beneath the surface of the skin is something important for you to know to do the surgery,” he said.

The platform will also let physicians point and click to take measurements during surgery and overlay real-time image data onto existing CT scans. That’s a big deal, as doctors currently use plastic rulers for the first task and taped-up pictures for the second. 

Activ’s technology sprang from the work of Dr. Peter Kim, a pediatric surgeon who supervised the first autonomous robotic suturing of soft tissue. 

Now, healthcare industry veteran Usen is guiding the company alongside Kim as the team submits its first product for U.S. Food and Drug Administration review in March. 

“I am not a typical smart, young engineer founder,” Usen said. “I'm neither smart, young, nor an engineer.”

Usen is forward-thinking, however. By helping physicians avoid mistakes during surgery, ActivSight has the potential to reduce hospital readmission rates and mortality rates. It may also encourage hospitals to invest in surgical robotics by expanding the number of procedures eligible for robotic assistance and making it easier for doctors to leverage the technology effectively, he said.

Activ Surgical is currently a team of 20 and plans to double its headcount within the year.

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