Robotic Surgery Pioneer Virtuoso Surgical Awarded $1.8 Million in SBIR Funding

Medical device company Virtuoso Surgical, Inc. has been awarded a $1.8 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) NIH grant to be received over the next two years. Virtuoso’s robotic surgery system enables a new scale of robotic tools and maneuvers in endoscopic surgery that are not possible using today’s instruments.

“We are honored to receive this SBIR Phase II grant as we move toward commercialization of our groundbreaking robotic surgical system,” said S. Duke Herrell, III, MD, FACS, CEO, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Virtuoso Surgical. “The Virtuoso system gives surgeons their hands back, enabling them to use two ’hands’ to perform procedures deep within the body, at the tip of an endoscope, with unprecedented control and dexterity.”

“For this SBIR Phase II grant, Virtuoso will continue its research regarding the use of its patented robotic technology to improve bladder lesion removal,” Dr. Herrell said. “Bladder lesion removal often does not obtain key information such as depth of invasion or margins if the lesion is a cancer, and we know that outcomes can be improved for these surgeries and patients.”

“We look forward to continuing to collaborate in this research with world renowned simulation and education expert Ahmed Ghazi, M.D., and his colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University Simulation Innovation Lab at the Brady Urological Institute,” Dr. Herrell said.

While Virtuoso Surgical’s initial clinical applications will likely be bladder lesions and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) tissue removal, the technology is a platform that will improve many if not all surgical procedures where tools are delivered through rigid endoscopes.

The Virtuoso Surgical system includes two robotically controlled, needle-sized manipulators working from the tip of a rigid endoscope that is less than half the diameter of a U.S. dime. The scope itself is far smaller than current robotic endoscope hardware, and the manipulators are 1mm in diameter. Equipped with a camera, the endoscope comes with an array of manipulators depending on the procedure, including a tissue grasper, retractor, tissue snare, laser aiming manipulator and electrosurgical tools.

In addition to Dr. Duke Herrell, the Virtuoso Surgical team includes Co-founder and President Robert J. Webster, III, PhD, who also founded the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering (VISE) with Dr. Herrell. They developed the Virtuoso Surgical system with a design team helmed by COO, Co-founder and Lead Engineer Richard Hendrick, PhD. Pending regulatory approval, company executives anticipate first-in-human use in early 2024 followed by regulatory submission pursuant of FDA approval for sale in the United States.

The Virtuoso Surgical system has demonstrated feasibility in animal, cadaver and tissue model studies examining use in surgeries for bladder cancer, uterine fibroids (among other intrauterine procedures), enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia – BPH), central airway obstruction removal and endoscopic neurosurgery. The technology can provide dexterity in rigid endoscopic procedures, including in urology, neurosurgery, pulmonology, gynecology, orthopedics, thoracic surgery, otolaryngology (ENT) and other sub-specialties.


Virtuoso Surgical Resources

Videos of Robotic Surgery System in Action



About Virtuoso Surgical

Virtuoso Surgical has developed a groundbreaking robotic surgery system that radically improves minimally invasive endoscopic surgery. The Virtuoso Surgical system features a pair of instrument delivery arms made of concentric nitinol tubes that mimic a surgeon’s hand motions to offer unprecedented control and dexterity to a full range of endoscopic applications. The system uses patented technology developed by Virtuoso’s founders at Johns Hopkins University and Vanderbilt University with funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. For additional information about Virtuoso Surgical and the initial public offering of common stock, visit and This device has not yet been approved by the FDA and is not for sale in the United States.

Robots to Improve Surgery for All – IEEE Pulse Article

Smaller tools with better maneuverability and more precise control, new imaging approaches, and advanced software applications will improve patient outcomes

Surgeons around the world are now using robot-assisted tech to help them perform minimally invasive operations ranging from hernia repair and gall bladder removal to knee replacement and cancer-related colectomy, often manipulating the surgical tools from a computer console some distance from the patient.

Why is the medical industry so interested in robots for these laparoscopic or keyhole operations? One of the biggest advantages is that they help the average surgeon perform at a higher level, according to Robert Webster, Ph.D., Virtuoso Surgical Co-founder, President and CTO, and Vanderbilt University’s Richard A. Schroeder professor of mechanical engineering and head of Vanderbilt’s Medical Engineering and Discovery Laboratory. “You’d be amazed at what the best-of-the-best doctors can do with just a straight endoscope that has a laser fiber sticking out of it. They free-hand that crazy, long, metal rod, lever it around, and do really delicate surgeries out of the tip,” he described. “But a typical surgeon doesn’t have that skill set. So what surgical robotics is really good at is democratizing health care, and conveying the skills of the truly elite doctors to all surgeons, and therefore to all patients.”


Virtuoso Surgical Creating the 4th Lane Surgical Robotics Highway – MD+DI Article

Writes Editor-in-Chief Omar Ford in MD+DI, Virtuoso Surgical is going for a “different” segment in surgical robotics than other established players in the space.

While it might be a bit daunting to carve out a strong place in the space, Virtuoso Surgical, a surgical robotics maker, said it stands out from other competitors and is creating a “4th lane on the surgical robotics highway.”


Journal Editor In Chief Highlights Virtuoso System in: ‘Robotic Hysteroscopy: Sounds Crazy, No?’

Virtuoso is the subject of an editorial in the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology, which concludes “…my excitement is considering the new procedures that we may be able to perform transcervically. This includes treating deep intramural myomas, hysteroscopic suturing, more complete resection of adenomyosis, and alternative therapies for congenital uterine anomalies. I offer my congratulations and encouragement for the authors and developers of this novel robotic technology.”


Virtuoso Surgical’s Innovative Surgical Technology Featured in “MedTech Outlook”

“Virtuoso Surgical: Endoscopic Surgery Reimagined”
MedTech Outlook, July 2020

Virtuoso Surgical’s system replaces single, straight tools in many rigid endoscopic procedures, enabling surgeons to grasp, manipulate, and cut tissues with unparalleled bimanual dexterity. This capability gives surgeons the ability to perform advanced rigid endoscopic surgery – a task often limited by the tool and the surgeon’s experience with it.


Virtuoso Surgical Featured in “MedTech Strategist“ as a Start-Up to Watch for Endoscopic Surgery

Medtech-Strategist“Virtuoso Surgical: Empowering Endoscopic Surgery” by Colin Miller
MedTech Strategist

Colin Miller features Virtuoso Surgical and our minimally invasive robotic surgery system that enables doctors to surpass some of the limitations of traditional endoscopes. The Virtuoso system features a pair of instrument delivery arms made of concentric nitinol tools that mimic a surgeon’s hands to offer unprecedented control, specificity, and variability to a full range of endoscopic applications.