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Google Teams Up With Johnson & Johnson to Collaborate on Surgical Robotics

Collaboration Hopes to Offer Surgeons and Hospitals Greater Accuracy, Cost Efficiency
An Intuitive Surgical DaVinci robot is shown here. A J&J/Google collaboration will create new competition for Intuitive. Intuitive Surgical

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Hub City healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced on March 27 that it has entered into a collaboration with Google to develop surgical robotics for the benefit of surgeons, patients and health care systems.

Based in Mountain View, California, Google is one of the largest technology companies in the United States with more than 53,000 employees.

The multinational corporation specializes in Internet services and products, including advertising and cloud computing.  They are perhaps best known for their search engine and free web-based email services.

J&J said that its Ethicon medical device unit and Google will "bring together capabilities, intellectual property and expertise to create an innovative robotic-assisted surgical platform capable of integrating advanced technologies with the goal of improving health care delivery in the operating room."

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The companies’ press release says that the transaction is expected to close during the second quarter of 2015, but that “the closing of the transaction is subject to clearance the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and other customary closing conditions.”

The deal could threaten Intuitive Surgical, the Silicon Valley maker of the da Vinci robot, because its only competition so far has come from small startups.

The da Vinci system reportedly dominates the market for high-end robotic surgery. But Intuitive's sales have slowed recently because gynecologic surgeons are not using surgical robots as often. 

“This announcement is just the latest confirmation that computer-assisted surgery continues to grow to the point that others can no longer sit on the sidelines,” Paige Bischoff, an Intuitive Surgical spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

The definitive agreement to collaborate with Google makes it unlikely that J&J will acquire Intuitive, as some analysts thought possible.