Financial Times | Clive Cookson 27 Jun 2021
SoftBank Vision Fund 2 leads private ﬁnancing round that Cambridge group says is medtech’s biggest
UK robotics start-up CMR Surgical has raised $600m in what it says was a record private financing round for a medical technology company, pushing its total funds raised above $1bn and giving it a $3bn valuation.
The Series D financing was led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, the Japanese conglomerate’s second big venture capital vehicle, to which it has allocated $30bn.
CMR will use the investment for global commercialisation of its first product, Versius, which was launched in 2019 and provides surgeons with multiple robotic arms to perform a wide range of keyhole operations.
About half the 1,000 or so procedures carried out with Versius — in Europe, Australia, India and the Middle East — have been in gynaecology, particularly hysterectomies, and colorectal surgery.
The funding will also help the Cambridge-based company expand research and development, adding more data processing and digital information to its robotic system.
Per Vegard Nerseth, chief executive. said CMR aimed to increase its workforce to 1,800 employees by 2025 from 700 today.
“This major injection of capital . . . will enable significant technology developments and global expansion. It was so oversubscribed that we were able to raise more than we had planned.”
CMR said the funding was the world’s largest private financing round in the medtech sector, citing PitchBook data.
Nerseth declined to disclose CMR’s sales figures but said the company expected to have an installed base of more than 1,000 Versius systems by 2025.
It had not considered raising funds through a stock market listing, he said, adding that “we want to remain a private company for some time to come, though that does not mean that an IPO wouldn’t be an option for the future”.
The company says estimated global sales of surgical robots will be about $5bn this year, mostly in North America, and are growing by almost 20 per cent annually. The market leader is Intuitive of the US, whose da Vinci systems have carried out 5m robotic operations.
All today’s surgical robots work as dexterous assistants, helping human surgeons who control their movements. Autonomous surgical robots are not expected to operate independently for many years.
SoftBank Vision Fund 2 contributed about three-quarters of CMR’s $600m Series D round and will have a seat on the company’s board. It will become CMR’s second-largest shareholder, with Escala Capital, which has been investing in the company since 2014, remaining the biggest.
Although Vision Fund 2 has made more than 80 investments worldwide since October 2019, including 13 in Europe, CMR is just its second in the UK. It led a$225m Series D round in April for Exscientia, an Oxford company using AI to design drugs.
Yanni Pipilis, managing partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, has high hopes for CMR. “Demand for minimally invasive robotic surgery is growing rapidly among surgeons and patients yet high costs have historically hindered adoption,” he said.
“CMR is transforming surgical robotics [for] new international markets where robotic surgeries are less prevalent such as India, the Middle East and Latin America.”