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Zhongrui Funing launches robot for eye surgeries

By Wu Yong in Shenyang | China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-20 13:16

A robot is seen in this screenshot from the official website of FN Robotics. [Photo/zrfnrobotics.com]

Zhongrui Funing Robotics Co Ltd (FN Robotics), a Shenyang, Liaoning-based unit of Zhongrui Funing Holding Group, China's leading intelligent service robots company, has announced the release of the nation's first ophthalmic robot for sensitive eye surgeries, putting China's medical robotics industry on a par with Western counterparts.

Wan Meihui, chief engineer of FN Robotics, said the ophthalmic robot (OR) can complete the injection treatment of age-related macular degeneration for the eyes in one second, a procedure that used to take more than an hour.

"The OR can greatly shorten the operation time and cost, but also improve the comfort of patients. I am sure it will bring revolutionary changes to this niche but vital medical market. OR is a milestone in the medical robotics industry in China and even in the world," said Wan.

The Ophthalmological Society of the Chinese Medical Association said there are about 40,000 qualified ophthalmologists in China, close to the number operating in the United States.

Considering the United States only has a fifth of China's population, the country still lacks 160,000 ophthalmologists. At the same time, more than 70 percent of doctors are under pressure from their workload, said the National Health Commission of China.

The shortage of medical services promises a rosy future for the medical robot industry. Boston Consulting said the global medical robot market will reach $11.4 billion by 2020, with surgical robots taking the lion's share of 60 percent.

The United States, the European Union and Japan all value medical robots. Healthcare robotics is listed as the second most important item, second only to industrial robots.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Finance jointly issued the Robot Industry Development Plan (2016-20) in April 2016. It projected the annual sales revenue of service robots should exceed 30 billion yuan ($4.26 billion) by 2020.

"China has struggled for years to enter the high-end medical device industry, which offers many opportunities. Healthcare robotics offers that chance," said Yu Qingming, chairman of China Medical Devices Co Ltd.

Ophthalmic surgery robots require a high level of technology because of the sensitivity and dense nerves in the eyes.

Founded in December 2016, FN Robots is an international industrial group which focuses on the design, development and application of intelligent service robots. The company's main business includes medical robots, service robots and robotics industry incubation.

The company has 125 researchers in Europe and established cooperative relations with robot research institutions from Sweden, Switzerland and Germany.

"Our robot uses a special recognition and tracking system which can accurately identify the lesions and precisely locate the best injection site. Then the intravitreal injection and drug delivery are automatically carried out in one second before the patient blinks his eyes," said chief technology officer Bradley Nelson from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

ORs began clinical testing in Switzerland in June this year and testing should begin in October, the company said.

China, the United States and Europe are all at the same starting line in the field of medical robotics.

"The development of the robotics industry is the exploration of how science, intelligence and human beings coexist harmoniously in the future," said Liu Qian, chairman of FN Robotics.

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