Avail Medsystems' telepresence device has cameras and a display screen for remote viewing on laptops and tablets
The Avail Medsystems telepresence console beams video, audio and information to laptops and tablets. [Photo courtesy of Avail Medsystems]

Medical robotics startup Mendaera has purchased the technology of Avail Medsystems and hired some of its employees, Mendaera co-founder and CEO Josh DeFonzo said in an exclusive interview.

The deal includes “substantially all” of Avail’s assets, said DeFonzo, who offered new details on his company’s objectives as it exits stealth mode.

He declined to disclose financial terms of the deal.

Avail shut down last year for lack of funding. DeFonzo said Mendaera will support customers that were using the existing Avail technology and consoles as its R&D group works on the product roadmap regarding console size and/or features in the coming quarters. However, Avail’s partnership with Medtronic is not part of the transaction, he said.

“We certainly would be happy to work with Medtronic and others and support what Avail was doing as a business as we embark on our pathway to combine telepresence and robotics,” he said.

DeFonzo is the former chief operating officer and chief strategy officer of Auris Health. He founded San Mateo, California-based Mendaera in 2020 with Chief Technology Officer Jason Wilson, who was manager of systems engineering and advanced development at Auris and chief technology officer of Vantage Surgical before that.

While DeFonzo joined Johnson & Johnson after it paid more than $3 billion for Auris, Wilson led a team of robotics engineers at autonomous vehicle developer Cruise.

DeFonzo described Mendaera’s technology as a high-performing robot “no bigger than your fist.” (Read more from this interview about the technology at Medical Design & Outsourcing.)

A photo of Mendaera co-founder and CEO Josh DeFonzo.
Mendaera co-founder and CEO Josh DeFonzo [Photo courtesy of Mendaera]

“We’ve been quietly developing next-generation collaborative robotic systems that are aimed at making intervention more consistent for all patients and dramatically improving access to the procedures that we’re focusing on,” DeFonzo said. “… We’re really excited to bring [Avail’s] technology alongside ours for the purposes of combining robotics, AI, imaging and telepresence to be able to more dramatically digitize the distribution of these interventions and these procedures. We see telepresence as a really important part of that. And it’s something that’s a new chapter both for us and the Avail technology.”

DeFonzo said Avail founder and CEO Daniel Hawkins and other executives have served as advisors during the transition period, but it’s yet to be determined whether they will join Mendaera as formal advisors or in another capacity.

Mendaera is backed by investors including surgical robotics expert Dr. Fred Moll (a co-founder of Intuitive Surgical and Auris Health), investment bank Allen & Co., and venture capital firms Lux Capital Management, Founders Fund and Operator Partners.

“We believe that healthcare systems need solutions that will drive far greater efficiency and equity in the U.S. and abroad,” Lux Capital co-founder and Managing Partner Peter Hebert said in a statement emailed to MassDevice. “This acquisition uniquely positions Mendaera to deliver scalable and transformative technology that will create a better future for patients and providers alike.”

The startup has raised three rounds of financing so far and plans to raise a Series B round this year, DeFonza said. He declined to disclose the company’s funding totals, goals or valuation, but the company said in August that it raised $24 million in its Series A round. At the same time, Mendaera announced its expansion into a production facility to “enable rapid growth of the organization, as well as volume manufacturing for product launch.”

The company’s December 2023 trademark application for the Mendaera name describes its products as “robotic medical devices for needle insertion, incorporating ultrasound guidance, designed for use in medical and surgical procedures.”

That same month, handheld ultrasound developer Butterfly Network announced its partnership with Mendaera on a next-generation interventional robotic system “designed to improve precision and consistency for a broad range of image-guided, needle-based interventions.”

Mendaera now has around 40 employees, many with experience in imaging, robotics and telepresence technologies, DeFonzo said. The commercial team has around a dozen people, including commercial leadership, marketing and product management.

The company’s technology is in a design freeze as the team works with the FDA. Mendaera has engaged in a series of Q-Submissions and plans to submit for review by the end of the year.

“We believe that we’ve got a 510(k) pathway and expect to be able to use the product clinically in the United States sometime in 2025 — as early as possible,” DeFonzo said, though he declined to discuss the likely 510(k) predicate.

“We’re just now with this transaction beginning to emerge from stealth,” he said. “We do anticipate saying more about our technology in the coming days and weeks [and] to announce other partnerships in the coming days.”

Medical Design & Outsourcing: Stealthy startup Mendaera is developing a fist-sized medical robot — with Dr. Fred Moll’s support