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New billionaire: Mr Robot

David C Paul is riding high on a million-dollar machine designed to make spinal surgeons more accurate. But how effective is it?

Published: Dec 17, 2018 11:34:02 AM IST

New billionaire: Mr Robot
Image: Brian Taylor for Forbes

When David C Paul traveled to Phoenix, in Arizona, in 2013, he saw the future of spinal surgery: A robot prototype called the Excelsius GPS. Nicholas Theodore, one of the robot’s inventors, remembers Paul being immediately impressed. “This is going to change everything,” Paul said, according to Theodore. A few months later, Paul bought Theodore’s company, Excelsius Surgical—and the robot with it—for an undisclosed sum.

Paul, 51, couldn’t have hoped for more from the purchase. Since 2014, shares of Globus Medical, Paul’s publicly traded device manufacturer, have more than doubled its price. Just since the robot received FDA clearance in August 2017, the stock has climbed 70 percent. Paul, a mechanical engineer who left Swiss medical-device maker Synthes and founded Globus, owns nearly a quarter of the firm: That stake and recent stock sales add up to a $1.3 billion fortune.

The Excelsius GPS is one of only two spine-surgery robots on the market, and Globus, which is based in Audubon, Pennsylvania, says it can help surgeons perform spinal fusions by placing screws more quickly and accurately. At this point, though, there’s little large-scale data to show that Excelsius, which costs more than $1 million per unit, is any better than surgeons putting in the screws on their own; Johns Hopkins University researchers are preparing studies on accuracy and patient outcomes.

(This story appears in the 04 January, 2019 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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