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Robots from Basel set to revolutionize surgery


The Werner Siemens Foundation is to invest an additional 12 million Swiss francs in the Miracle project. Researchers at the University of Basel are developing visionary technology for the use of robots in surgery within the framework of this project.

Robotic endoscope tip developed by the Miracle project (img: F. Brüderli)

The Miracle (Minimally Invasive Robot-Assisted Computer-guided LaserosteotomE) project is pursuing a number of different aims, as detailed in a press release issued by the University of Basel. These include planning an operation in virtual reality, high-precision bone cutting using a smart laser saw and using 3D-printed organic implants such as a new knee joint in a minimally invasive surgical procedure. The development of the individually configurable robot needed for these applications is being supported by the Werner Siemens Foundation, which has increased its funding for the project by 12 million Swiss francs to an overall total of 27 million Swiss francs

The additional funding will be used during the second phase of the Miracle project, when the technologies developed in the first phase will be combined within a modular robot. “We are deeply grateful to the Werner Siemens Foundation for supporting our visionary project”, comments Philippe Cattin, Co-Director of both Miracle project phases and head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering (DBE) at the University of Basel. The DBE is carrying out work related to the Miracle project at the Allschwil location of the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area, which is operated and managed by the investment and innovation promotion agency Basel Area Business & Innovation. Unique opportunities will now be presented to Basel in its role as an innovation location. “Thanks to this financing and our expertise, we are now able to tap into huge opportunities that will open the door for robotics in surgery”, Cattin explains.

The technology developed during the first phase of the project for the planning of operations in virtual reality is already being used today. In phase two, it is to be used to help design the shape and composition of implants, with the aim thereafter being to custom manufacture these implants via a 3D printer. Cattin is therefore sharing leadership of this phase with Florian M. Thieringer, who is head of the 3D Print Lab at University Hospital Basel. “With Miracle, we don’t just want to develop a new technology but rather fully transform bone surgery,” explains Hans-Florian Zeilhofer, surgeon and Delegate for Innovation at the University of Basel, who was also Co-Director of the first project phase together with Philippe Cattin.

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