Blue Belt Technologies preparing to sell its robotic surgical tool in Europe - Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation - Carnegie Mellon University

Friday, March 11, 2011

Blue Belt Technologies preparing to sell its robotic surgical tool in Europe


Work at Oakland robotics firm Blue Belt Technologies Inc. is ramping up as the company prepares to submit an application for its robotic surgical tool to be sold in Europe.

The eight-year-old company has grown to 15 employees, up from seven in 2009 when it was short on funding and evaluating ways to keep its doors open. By the end of that year, the company was able to secure $2.4 million in funding.

“We made it through the rough times,” said cofounder and CEO Craig Markovitz. “We are still here and thriving, actually.”

Blue Belt makes a device used in orthopedic surgery that allows a surgeon to direct which portion of bone is removed or preserved. Like many new medical device firms, the company is targeting Europe for its initial launch and then the U.S.

Markovitz hopes to have an approval later this year of the company’s application for a CE Mark, the equivalent of FDA approval for the European Union, and then sales by the end of the year. Work toward the U.S. market would begin soon after sales in Europe start.

The company is going after the growing minimally invasive medical device market, which, according to BCC Research, was worth $14.8 billion in 2008 and is expected to reach $23 billion in 2014. Orthopedic surgery made up roughly 12 percent of that market, according to the 2009 study.

Initially, the company was looking at releasing the technology as a development kit that would be added to existing systems and sold to manufacturers. However, as the market shifted, Blue Belt decided to create its own complete system and platform under the name NAVIO and release it by selling directly to hospitals and surgeons.

“It’s the nature of this business,” Markovitz said of the ability to shift strategy.

“You can’t put the blinders on. You have to set the plan, but (you also) really need to be fluid in terms of reacting and setting plans.”

Gearing up for the last push to market, the company took investment from an undisclosed private equity group. Markovitz would not go into detail on the deal other than to say it closed at the beginning of the year and is “sufficient enough to allow us to execute on the plan.”

Blue Belt Technologies is the largest investment in the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse portfolio, said President and CEO John Manzetti. The group has invested a total of $623,000.

“(Markovitz) uses every program we have,” Manzetti said. “He is the model on how a company should use the expertise in economic development and life sciences to grow his business and provide capital to the exit.”

Blue Belt also received $400,000 from Innovation Works, another early-stage investment group. With the private equity Blue Belt received earlier this year, both Innovation Works and the Greenhouse were able to recoup their investment.




Article courtesy of Pittsburgh Business Times