Picture: 123RF/Lenetsnikolai Ленец
Picture: 123RF/Lenetsnikolai Ленец

New York — Johnson & Johnson has agreed to buy surgical robotics company Auris Health for about $3.4bn in cash, according to people familiar with the matter, in a deal that would give the drug giant a lung-cancer diagnostic and treatment tool.

Under the terms of the deal, expected to be announced on Wednesday, J&J could also make additional payments of up to $2.35bn to Auris based on milestones, the people said. Auris, a closely held firm led by industry veteran Fred Moll, has developed robotic surgical scopes operated with a handheld device that are steered into patients’ lungs to identify cancerous tumours.

Auris will be part of J&J’s medical devices division. The world’s largest maker of healthcare products, J&J also has a robotic surgery company called Verb Surgical that it formed with Verily Life Sciences, part of Google parent Alphabet, in late 2015.

Moll will join J&J after the deal closes, which is expected by the end of the second quarter. The Auris deal will play a role in J&J’s lung-cancer initiative to develop digital tools for diagnosis and early stage intervention.