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IMRIS buying company behind surgical robot

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MEDICAL technology company IMRIS Inc. (TSX:IM) announced Thursday it is acquiring a private Calgary concern behind a next-generation surgical robot.

Winnipeg-based IMRIS will issue 1.6 million common shares to acquire NeuroArm Surgical Ltd., including its technology, patents and associated intellectual property. Based on IMRIS's share value, the deal would be worth about $10.7 million.

A key target of the acquisition is NeuroArm's magnetic resonance-compatible neurosurgical robot.

The companies expect to close the transaction no later than Feb. 8, after which IMRIS plans to work with MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (TSX:MDA) to commercialize the technology. MDA, a world leader in robotics and developer of the Canadarm, played a key role in creating the current NeuroArm surgical robotic surgery system, IMRIS said in a news release.

The NeuroArm robotic system is designed to perform microsurgery and biopsy-stereotaxy applications on the brain with unprecedented precision.

"To management's knowledge, it is the only surgical robot in the world that a surgeon can use together with a magnetic resonance scanner in the operating room," IMRIS said.

"This acquisition will deepen IMRIS's offering of image-guided therapy solutions, by bringing surgical robotics together with MR imaging," added chief executive David Graves.

"This technology offers the potential to increase neurosurgical precision and contribute to less invasive procedures."

Steve Oldham, MDA's vice-president responsible for the company's robotics systems business, said expertise gained in projects for the International Space Station was instrumental in the development of the first NeuroArm.

"We are very pleased that IMRIS's vision for surgical robotics under MR guidance utilizes MDA's technology," Oldham said.

"We believe that by combining IMRIS's expertise in developing unique image-guided therapy solutions with MDA's advanced robotics capabilities, we are bringing together all of the right elements to achieve this vision."

The system features two robotic arms that can manipulate MR-compatible tools at microscopic scale from a remote workstation.

The surgeon sees detailed three-dimensional images of the brain and surgical tools, and uses hand controllers equipped with enhanced touch sensation that allows the surgeon to feel very small anatomy through the robotic arms and surgical tools.

The first generation robot was developed at the University of Calgary and is currently being used to perform neurosurgical procedures within an IMRIS neuro suite at Calgary's Foothills Hospital.

At closing of the acquisition, IMRIS will enter into a collaboration agreement with the University of Calgary to leverage its clinical setting and data through development of the next generation of the technology.

IMRIS offers image guided therapy solutions for the neurosurgical, cardiovascular and neurovascular markets.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 5, 2010 B5

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