Google's Verily Wants to Make a Better Surgical Robot

Verily, owned by Google's parent company Alphabet, is partnering with Johnson & Johnson to develop cutting-edge robotics platforms to be used in surgery. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Verily, which was formerly the Google Life Sciences division and is now owned by Alphabet, will partner with Johnson & Johnson's medical devices company Ethicon to make robots more effective as surgical assistants.

In a press release on Thursday, Johnson & Johnson said the collaboration will lead to the formation of an independent surgical solutions company called Verb Surgical. Inc.

The release said that the aim of Verb Surgical will be to bring together " leading-edge robotic capabilities" and "best-in-class medical device technology" in the operating room.

Surgeons already use robots to help them do things that humans are too weak or clumsy to do, like holding instruments in place for long periods of time or carrying out minimally invasive procedures in highly fragile areas. But Verb Surgical wants to go one better.

"We believe Verb Surgical has the potential to change the future of surgery, not just robotic surgery," said Gary Pruden, Worldwide Chairman of Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices. "The team has already made meaningful progress on the robotics platform, which is being developed for application across a host of surgical specialties."

Speaking to, Verily CEO Andrew Conrad envisioned the collaboration as just the first of the company's potential partnerships with other leading researchers. "We expect to work closely with pharma, biotech, medical device and diagnostic companies, patient advocacy groups, and academic researchers in different ways for a long time to come," he said.

Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., announced in December that Verily would be its first new company. Gizmodo reported at the time that the team that previously made up Google Life Sciences would have the freedom to work on ambitious projects such as special contact lenses for diabetics that can monitor and provide real-time measurements of the wearer's glucose levels.