The recent acquisition of ophthalmic robotics company Preceyes, Inc. by industry leader ZEISS Medical is a major win for the Mount Sinai/NYEE Innovations team, which was the lead technology partner in the first clinical robotics venture in ophthalmology. The world’s first clinical eye surgical robotic system, and the only one in the United States, was installed at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai (NYEE) in the summer of 2020. The backing by one of the largest surgical device manufacturers like ZEISS—a $14 billion global enterprise—means more depth and breadth of resources and expertise in the advancement of surgical robotics in the field of ophthalmology.
The addition of a global industry partner will enhance the relationship begun several years ago with a generous grant from the RICBAC Foundation to fund the NYEE surgical robotics initiative and further championed through the efforts of Tsontcho (Sean) Ianchulev, MD, MPH, Professor of Ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Director of Ophthalmic Innovation and Technology at NYEE.
“At the peak of the pandemic, NYEE and Mount Sinai doubled down on microsurgical robotics innovation by serving as the only institutional investor in Preceyes,” says Dr. Ianchulev, a widely known innovator who will serve on the advisory board of Preceyes/ZEISS. “Our new collaboration with a global leader like ZEISS will allow for continued development of the next generation of anterior segment applications. These include angle-based glaucoma surgery with an achievable level of precision through the robot of five microns, compared to 100 microns manually.”
The value of the acquisition is underscored by Erik Lium, PhD, President, Mount Sinai Innovation Partners (MSIP), which has provided critical support for NYEE’s surgical robotics program, including institutional investment in the company. “Bringing advanced technology to market that can improve health care and the lives of patients is extremely complex and costly,” says Dr. Lium, who previously represented Mount Sinai on the board of directors of Preceyes. “Having the backing of an innovation leader like ZEISS will provide the levels of expertise and resources needed to allow the microsurgical robotic assistant to become the leader in its field.”
“The surgical robot is an extension of NYEE’s history as a national center of microsurgical excellence in ophthalmology, as well as a launchpad for next-generation image-guided robotic eye surgery.”
- Richard Rosen, MD
The first robotic module on track for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval is aimed at retinal microsurgical intervention. Dr. Ianchulev expects clinical trials on that platform to begin over the next 12 months. In addition, he and Gautam Kamthan, MD, Assistant Director of Ophthalmic Innovation and Technology at NYEE, presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology conference the first surgical robotic module for anterior segment/glaucoma surgery. That application is the product of a collaboration between NYEE’s innovation group and the Preceyes engineering team, with a seed grant from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary Foundation.
Future plans call for adding instrumentation that would integrate the surgical robot with intraoperative optical coherence tomography, allowing the device to navigate deftly within the microscopic three-dimensional space of the retina layers and vessels, according to Richard Rosen, MD, Belinda Bingham Pierce and Gerald G. Pierce, MD Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Vice Chair of Ophthalmology Research at NYEE, and Chief of the Retina Service at the Mount Sinai Health System, who has been an integral part of the robot’s implementation.
“Through the robotic initiative, we’re expanding upon our clinical-scientific-industry model for innovation to bring new therapeutic capabilities for the benefit of our patients and the entire field of ophthalmic care,” he notes. “Clearly, the surgical robot is an extension of NYEE’s history as a national center of microsurgical excellence in ophthalmology, as well as a launchpad for next-generation image-guided robotic eye surgery.”
Dr. Ianchulev is a Professor of Ophthalmology and part-time faculty member at NYEE and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Ianchulev was an advisor and equity holder with Preceyes prior to the acquisition and leads the NYEE robotics program. He is also the founder, board member, and/or equity owner of multiple life-science companies, including the public company Eyenovia, Inc., and private companies Iantrek, Inc., and Aeye, Inc. As a prominent innovator in the field of ophthalmology, he is the holder of multiple issued and pending patents.
Tsontcho (Sean) Ianchulev, MD, MPH
Professor of Ophthalmology
Richard Rosen, MD
Belinda Bingham Pierce and Gerald G. Pierce, MD Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology