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Grand Opening: New Robotics Facility at Texas Medical Center

ABB robot.

HOUSTON – (By Michelle Leigh Smith for Realty News Report) – Nowhere was the spirit of collaboration more evident than when ABB Robotics team realized their $40,000 dual-arm robot, YuMi, although capable of performing repetitive, delicate processes, would not be able to cut the ribbon at this morning’s ceremony at ABB’s first global healthcare research hub at Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute.

Enter surgeon Billy Cohn’s team from next door at the Center of Device Innovation, a 26,000 SF lab. “We called it Operation Hotwire,” said Cohn, Executive Director of the CDI and VP of Medical Devices for Johnson & Johnson Medical Device Companies and J&J Innovation here.  “On Friday afternoon, we went to CVS and bought a $10 remote control car, took the guts out of the control device, added some flashlight batteries and devised a tool that YuMi could hold to cut the ribbon by Sunday morning.”

Cohn calls robotics “the next big frontier” and says he wants to work closely with ABB in discovering more innovations for medicine. ABB’s YuMi has laser sensors and can safely navigate hospital corridors, transporting medicine, equipment and saving valuable staff time.  In demonstrations at ABB, YuMi was able to shake liquids used in a genetic procedure, fill test tubes with a pipette and carry the outcome of that procedure to the next station, working with agar plates and microbiologic stamping.

The IRB 1200 robot also aided researchers with centrifuge tending, a continuous operation that will increase throughput and quality while minimizing costs.  According to ABB research, the global market is estimated to reach 60,000 non-surgical medical robots by 2025, a four-fold increase from 2018.

They can navigate autonomously around the labs and perform certain tasks 50 percent faster with automation.

Marc Segura, Group VP for Service for ABB, led the tour of the 5400 SF logistics and research lab at 2450 Holcombe on the John P. McGovern tech campus, remarking on Houston’s gentle openness and collaborative culture.  “We came to Bill McKeon (President and CEO of TMC) eighteen months ago with this idea and here we are – that could not happen just anywhere,” says Segura, who flew in from Barcelona for Wednesday event.

The new robotics keep Texas Medical Center at the forefront of life science innovation.

Segura asked a panel that included cardiac surgeon Billy Cohn, McKeon and James Versalovic, Chief Pathologist at Texas Children’s Hospital, about the role they envisioned robots playing in the hospital of the future.

“What we lack now in the pediatric environment is automations, so the enhanced versatility of robots in a children’s hospital will be crucial,” said Versalovic. “Here, we can figure out where robotics will be the best fit. That’s why it’s great to have an incubator space so new technologies can be tested. Once refined here, they can be rapidly deployed.”

Cohn said he saw the barriers to getting an innovation to the bedside were threefold: getting a devise cleared and approved; getting someone to pay for it and getting the doctors to use it. There’s something to be said for picking projects where you’re not going to face incredible headwinds.  For those where that’s the case, you just hunker down and pack for the trip.”

Globally, ABB headquarters in Zurich, with U.S. operations anchored in Auburn Hills, MI.  The Houston lab will be staffed by 20 research engineers initially, with room to grow.

Bill McKeon

“Texas Medical Center, TMC Innovation, and the entire TMC network of member institutions are pleased to welcome ABB on the occasion of its first foray into the healthcare space with this incredible and unprecedented new robotics facility,” said McKeon. He added, “A primary goal across TMC – the largest medical city in the world – is to make research happen faster while simultaneously cutting costs in order to create more rapid and cost-effective solutions for patients who are in desperate need of treatment. ABB’s move into the heart of the Texas Medical Center campus with this first-of-its-kind R&D facility for creating robotics solutions in healthcare will set a new course for advancements in medicine and establish TMC as the nexus for a new kind of synergistic partnership that will shape the future of healthcare for clinicians, researchers, and patients alike.”

The Texas Medical Center nurtures cross-institutional collaboration, creativity, and innovation among its 106,000 employees. With a campus of more than 50 million square feet, TMC annually hosts 10 million patients, performs over 180,000 surgeries, conducts over 750,000 ER visits, performs close to 14,000 heart surgeries, and delivers over 25,000 babies.

Oct. 9, 2019 Realty News Report Copyright 2019

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