Robotic Surgery Pioneer Virtuoso Surgical Awarded $1.8 Million in SBIR Funding

Medical device company Virtuoso Surgical, Inc. has been awarded a $1.8 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) NIH grant to be received over the next two years. Virtuoso’s robotic surgery system enables a new scale of robotic tools and maneuvers in endoscopic surgery that are not possible using today’s instruments.

“We are honored to receive this SBIR Phase II grant as we move toward commercialization of our groundbreaking robotic surgical system,” said S. Duke Herrell, III, MD, FACS, CEO, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Virtuoso Surgical. “The Virtuoso system gives surgeons their hands back, enabling them to use two ’hands’ to perform procedures deep within the body, at the tip of an endoscope, with unprecedented control and dexterity.”

“For this SBIR Phase II grant, Virtuoso will continue its research regarding the use of its patented robotic technology to improve bladder lesion removal,” Dr. Herrell said. “Bladder lesion removal often does not obtain key information such as depth of invasion or margins if the lesion is a cancer, and we know that outcomes can be improved for these surgeries and patients.”

“We look forward to continuing to collaborate in this research with world renowned simulation and education expert Ahmed Ghazi, MD, and his colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University Simulation Innovation Lab at the Brady Urological Institute,” Dr. Herrell said.

While Virtuoso Surgical’s initial clinical applications will likely be bladder lesions and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) tissue removal, the technology is a platform that will improve many if not all surgical procedures where tools are delivered through rigid endoscopes.

The Virtuoso Surgical system includes two robotically controlled, needle-sized manipulators working from the tip of a rigid endoscope that is less than half the diameter of a U.S. dime. The scope itself is far smaller than current robotic endoscope hardware, and the manipulators are 1mm in diameter. Equipped with a camera, the endoscope comes with an array of manipulators depending on the procedure, including a tissue grasper, retractor, tissue snare, laser aiming manipulator and electrosurgical tools.

In addition to Dr. Duke Herrell, the Virtuoso Surgical team includes Co-founder and President Robert J. Webster, III, PhD, who also founded the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering (VISE) with Dr. Herrell. They developed the Virtuoso Surgical system with a design team helmed by COO, Co-founder and Lead Engineer Richard Hendrick, PhD. Pending regulatory approval, company executives anticipate first-in-human use in early 2024 followed by regulatory submission pursuant of FDA approval for sale in the United States.

The Virtuoso Surgical system has demonstrated feasibility in animal, cadaver and tissue model studies examining use in surgeries for bladder cancer, uterine fibroids (among other intrauterine procedures), enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia – BPH), central airway obstruction removal and endoscopic neurosurgery. The technology can provide dexterity in rigid endoscopic procedures, including in urology, neurosurgery, pulmonology, gynecology, orthopedics, thoracic surgery, otolaryngology (ENT) and other sub-specialties.

Virtuoso Surgical Resources

Videos of Robotic Surgery System in Action


About Virtuoso Surgical

Virtuoso Surgical has developed a groundbreaking robotic surgery system that radically improves minimally invasive endoscopic surgery. The Virtuoso Surgical system features a pair of instrument delivery arms made of concentric nitinol tubes that mimic a surgeon’s hand motions to offer unprecedented control and dexterity to a full range of endoscopic applications. The system uses patented technology developed by Virtuoso’s founders at Johns Hopkins University and Vanderbilt University with funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. For additional information about Virtuoso Surgical and the initial public offering of common stock, visit and This device has not yet been approved by the FDA and is not for sale in the United States.