By Peter Hébert
You might not have heard of Auris Health before today.
As humans are conditioned with constant talk of robots and AI — it is easy to lose sight of the human condition.
Auris Health never did. Auris began with a mission to improve human health by enhancing physicians with the most advanced technology. Along the way they have had many wins, from technological success to FDA approval. But today their mission advances with another win — for their scientists, engineers, leadership and investors, but most importantly, for patients.
Lux co-led Auris Health’s Series A financing in 2012, after which serial entrepreneur and surgical robotics pioneer Fred Moll quietly went on to raise more than $700 million from the likes of Mithril, Viking Global, Partner Fund and Coatue. Fred built an extraordinary team that was able to realize a wildly-ambitious technological vision into the now FDA-approved Monarch Platform: empowering doctors with a video game controller to drive small cameras and tools into the body non-invasively to enable new categories of care.
Today marks a new milestone, as the world’s largest healthcare company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) makes a significant bet on medical robotics to positively impact patient outcomes, announcing an all-cash acquisition of Auris Health worth up to $5.75 billion.
Why this matters: J&J’s acquisition of Auris makes it one of the 10 largest VC-backed, private M&A transactions of all-time and will be both the largest robotics and largest medtech private M&A deal in history.
Just as the Auris team went all-in on building the next great platform in surgical robotics to serve patients, we held a deep conviction in the company’s potential to transform medical intervention. Lux has invested nearly $50 million since inception — the largest allocation of capital across our 120+ portfolio companies. We rolled up our sleeves and went to work with fellow board members Bijan Salehizadeh, Ajay Royan and Bob Kerrey, doing whatever we could to support an amazing team on their mission.
What matters most: J&J’s global distribution will broaden access to Auris Health’s Monarch Platform. This will enable the more than 2 million people diagnosed with lung cancer each year to seek early treatment before it’s too late. More patients die every year from lung cancer than from prostate, breast and colon cancer combined. Late diagnosis can be a death sentence — 90% of people diagnosed with lung cancer do not survive, as the cancer is too advanced to defeat. Auris designed the Monarch Platform to allow physicians to accurately access small and hard-to-reach lung nodules early, for diagnosing and targeting treatment.
We couldn’t be more proud of Fred, Josh DeFonzo and the entire Auris team. It is made up of the type of brilliant and inventive technologists and engineers that we at Lux are constantly on the lookout for: high-risk, thriving at the outermost edges of what is possible and focused on using their talents to bring radical change. Auris has internally used the mantra: “This was a cause before it was a company,” which is evidenced by the company’s mission statement:
“We believe in a world where patient care is no longer pre-determined by the limitations of current tools. We create platforms that enhance physician capabilities, evolve minimally invasive techniques and create new categories of care that redefine optimal patient outcomes.”
Auris Health is an absolute winner in that it achieved its mission to make a difference in the lives of millions of patients. They challenged the status quo, stayed the course with conviction and introduced transformational change in interventional medicine.
This is the formula of a hallmark Lux investment.