Israeli company Microbot has been merged into US biomedical company StemCells. Following the announcement, StemCells' share price soared 598% on Nasdaq, and the company's market cap, which until then was $5.4 million, jumped to $30 million. Microbot, which develops miniature robots, was based on the inventions of Technion – The Israel Institute of Technology Prof. Moshe Shoham, the founder of Mazor Robotics Ltd. (Nasdaq: MZOR; TASE:MZOR), whose share has climbed to a record price reflecting a $2 billion market cap.
Following the merger, Microbot's shareholders will hold 95% of the public company, and Microbot's management will lead the merged company. The deal is contingent on StemCells being free of debt and raising at least $4 million by the actual merger date.
Microbot, headed by chairman and CEO Harel Gadot, is one of the leading companies founded through investment company MEDX Ventures Group. Microbot has raised $6 million to date from MEDX and private investors. Its product is in animal trials - a relatively early stage for a listed company.
"This transaction concludes an extensive search for strategic alternatives conducted by StemCells since we failed to see robust clinical results in our Phase II clinical study of human neural stem cells in chronic spinal cord injury," said StemCells CEO Ian Massey. Microbot will have to decide how, if at all, to use StemCells' technology, or whether it should be sold, while going ahead with its own technology. Following the merger, Gadot said, "We are pleased that this transaction will give us a presence in the US capital markets, and we are very excited to continue advancing the development of our proprietary technologies that we believe have the potential to improve the lives of many patients globally. We thank StemCells for its efforts and contributions to improving human health over the years."
More apps down the road
The first use of the robots being developed by Microbot is cleaning the artificial drainage pipes implanted in the body, for example in the urinary tract or in the brain. These pipes tend to become blocked, and must then be replaced in another operation. The miniature robot performs the same function as a robot that cleans a swimming pool or a home. It is made of titanium, and has arms that move around it. It can be controlled from outside the body, and directed within the pipe to clean out the concentrations of dirt and enable them to be swept out of the pipe.
In the future, the product is also likely to be suitable for cleaning plaque from blood vessels in order to prevent heart attacks and stroke, thereby obviating the need for a balloon or a stent. More remote applications could include a robot with a camera to take photographs within the body (like Given Imaging's pill, but with the added capability of controlling the location and photography angle), and release of a drug in a specific place in the body.
Another technology developed by Microbot includes a robot in combination with balloons that can be inflated to create a hollow pipe between them. Surgical tools can pass through this pipe, for example a catheterization wire, without any risk of damaging the sides of the artery.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 18, 2016
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