An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Adam Sachs ’13 and Sammy Khalifa ’12 have teamed up with Dr. Barry Greene to develop miniature anthropomorphic surgical robots that help surgeons make the benefits of minimally invasive surgery available to all patients.

The ideal form is to miniaturize yourself, go through that small incision, and go inside the patient,” explains Khalifa, which is where their company Vicarious Surgical comes in. “We have a miniaturized, two-armed anthropomorphic robot that goes through a single incision.” The distinction in their technology is the decoupled actuators, he says.

“When I move the wrist, I don’t want the elbow or the shoulder of the robot to move. I want it to do exactly what I want and only what I want. The decoupled actuators enable us to have nine degrees of freedom per robotic arm, as well as a camera with three degrees of freedom, for a total of 21 internal degrees of freedom, which is unheard of in surgical robotics. It creates a system that has unparalleled dexterity. You have access to the entire abdomen like no other system out there.”

The robot is currently in beta testing, preparing for evaluation by the FDA, and has received positive feedback from the medical community thus far. For Sachs, who started volunteering as an EMT in 2009 during his time at MIT, it’s the praise of the surgeons as they use the technology for the first time that is most rewarding.

“The reactions have been incredible,” says Sachs. “It’s such a pleasure to have this dream for the better part of a decade and work on it as long and hard as we have and finally be close to a product—to a technology that really works, that surgeons love, and has a clear line of sight to commercial launch and being able to deliver for hospitals and surgeons.”

Hear more of their story in this recent MITAA video.

Are you celebrating a milestone reunion like Sammy Khalifa ’12 is? Learn more about MIT Tech Reunions, May 27–29 on MIT's campus. 

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