UNL, UNMC research duo honored for surgical robot

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UNL, UNMC research duo honored for surgical robot
Game Changer Award to Farritor, Oleynikov

Shane Farritor (left) and Dmitry Oleynikov

A surgical robot developed in collaboration between Dmitry Oleynikov, a professor and surgeon at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Shane Farritor, an engineering professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was recently named a prestigious Game Changer Award winner by Robotics Business Review.

The annual Game Changer Awards were officially announced in San Jose, Calif., on Sept. 24, during RoboBusiness, one of the largest international robotics conferences in the United States.

The award-winning robot of Oleynikov and Farritor is the foundation of an NU startup company, Virtual Incision, which recently raised more than $11 million in equity financing. The researchers developed a surgical robot that could turn highly invasive surgeries into laparoscopic procedures.

The current focus is perfecting the robot's ability for colon resection, a complicated surgical procedure that removes a damaged or diseased section of a patient's colon. It's a treatment for patients with lower gastrointestinal diseases such as diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or colon cancer.

Current practice for a colon resection requires an incision of 8 to 12 inches and up to six weeks of recovery time. Virtual Incision's robot can accomplish this using minimally invasive techniques and operates entirely inside the patient's abdomen. The robot provides high-resolution video from an on-board camera while the surgeon operates the robot using a sophisticated set of controls.

Designed to utilize existing tools and techniques familiar to surgeons, Virtual Incision’s robot will not require a dedicated operating room or specialized infrastructure, and, because of its much smaller size, is expected to be significantly less expensive than existing robotic alternatives for laparoscopic surgery.

Because of these technological advances, the system also could enable minimally invasive approaches to other procedures that today are performed using open surgery.

“If you look at this group of winners and at past recipients, it is an amazing honor to be included in this list,” Farritor said.

Entries were judged by a panel of Robotics Business Review and Robotics Trends editors as well as by distinguished experts from the International Journal of Advanced Robotics Systems. In 2014 the NU system honored Oleynikov and Farritor with its Innovation, Development and Engagement Award.