Insight Medbotics: Operating Robotically Inside the MRI

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The extreme magnetic field generated by an MRI scanner has largely precluded biopsies and surgeries from taking place while the machine is in use. Now, using robots built from non-magnetic materials and inspired by the rigors of outer space, Insight Medbotics is giving radiologists and surgeons access to unprecedented image-guided accuracy.

In 2009, the Canadian Centre for Surgical Invention and Innovation (CSii) was granted Can$15 million by the Network Centres of Excellence’s CECR program to establish a not-for-profit research incubator that would leverage Canadian investment in space exploration technology and pivot it to medical applications. Led by CEO and seasoned telerobotic surgeon Mehran Anvari, PhD, CSii partnered with MDA, creator of the Canadarm space station maintenance robot, to begin development of the Image-Guided Automated Robotics (IGAR) system for conducting breast biopsies and other operations inside the bore of an MRI machine. Early prototypes of IGAR were created using components of the Canadarm, Canadarm2, and Dextre devices, as they were designed to function remotely under extreme conditions.

In 2015, CSii experienced déjà vu when it was awarded a Can$625,000 contract with the Department of Public Works and Government Services through the Build in Canada Innovation Program, this time to test the teleoperative capabilities of IGAR. Two years later, Anvari and his partners officially founded Insight Medbotics to increase access to MRI as the best imaging modality for soft tissue where precision and accuracy are crucial, and to commercialize the IGAR system, which received FDA 510(k) clearance for breast biopsy as its first clinical indication in 2023.


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