Dental robotics startup Neocis today closed a $70 million round of funding. The company plans to use the capital to bolster growth, with a focus on expanding its customer base and hiring new employees.
Estimates suggest surgical robots have been used in over 6 million cardiovascular, neurological, and orthopedic procedures since 2000, depending on how loosely the word “robot” is applied. But surgical robots have taken longer to reach dentistry, perhaps because the mouth is already more accessible than other parts of the body. Another factor is a lack of clinical evidence suggesting robots significantly improve outcomes for dental procedures compared with traditional methods.
But Neocis is forging ahead with Yomi, which the company claims is the first dental surgery robot to receive clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA’s clearance process, also referred to as the 510(k) process, allows medical devices to be marketed if the manufacturer can show the device is “substantially equivalent” to another cleared device. In contrast to the FDA approval process, companies aren’t required to submit extensive preclinical or clinical data to gain clearance.
Neocis received FDA clearance for Yomi in 2016 and began its commercial push at the start of 2018.
Yomi, which features a robotic arm that extends outward from a moveable base, has haptic guidance that allows dentists to previsualize a number of procedures (for example, surgery for flapless implants). Surgeons remain in control and in contact with instruments and patients throughout. Neocis says it can prevent drill deviation or over-drilling past specific depths to avoid hitting anatomy — like nerves and sinus cavities — even if the patient moves.
Yomi is designed to assist with procedural planning, courtesy of software that shows a rendering of a patient’s teeth. Surgeons are free to adjust the surgical plan intraoperatively, and the platform enables the use of third-party implants — like splint attachments and scanners — to perform surgeries in as little as 90 minutes.
While Yomi doesn’t act fully autonomously, it physically resists motion outside the bounds of the plan. A display shows the surgeons where they are and tracks their progress at all times.
“The Yomi planning software … leverages AI techniques to guide the surgeon in planning the case safely, for example providing warnings about proximity to the nerve or sinus and displaying information about the bone density quality in the proposed implant location,” a Neocis spokesperson told VentureBeat via email. “Moreover, since dental practices already enter the patient information, upload patient scans, plan the procedure, and perform the surgery with Yomi, this recorded data adds a long-term opportunity to use machine learning to enable the surgeon to streamline their clinical workflow and optimize the plan for the surgical procedure.”
Neocis claims over 2,700 procedures have been performed using Yomi in 50 cities across the U.S., and the company has been traveling around the country with a “demo bus” to provide a safe way for dentists to see the robot. In fact, Neocis asserts that Yomi can facilitate distancing during the pandemic. For instance, its screen-based navigation, reusable components, and disposable draping could allow for greater space between the faces of patients and providers during procedures while reducing the risk of cross-contamination.
Neocis says Yomi is now being used at a number of dental schools, including Boston University’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine and the University of West Virginia’s dental school. Neocis cofounder Alon Mozes sits on the Henry M. Goldman board of directors. Mozes worked at surgical robot startup Mako Surgical before starting Neocis with a former coworker.
“This round gives us an opportunity to substantially increase both our commercial efforts and our R&D,” Mozes said. “It enables expanding the Yomi platform into new clinical indications for the full spectrum of general dentists and specialists, adding value for the Yomi platform in every dental practice.”
DFJ Growth led this series D round, with participation from Vivo Capital and existing investors Mithril Capital Management, Norwest Venture Partners, Section 32, and Fred Moll. The round brings Miami-based Neocis’ total raised to over $120 million, which Mozes expects will enable the company to double its 80-person workforce within a year.