Ongoing projects

Artery – Autonomous Robotics for Transcatheter dEliveRy sYstems

People involved:Elena De Momi, Emiliano Votta blueprint-green

Funding source: H2020-ICT-2018-20
Grant number: 101017140

Funding period: 2021 – 2023

Partners: Sant’Anna University (Pisa), KU Leuven (Leuven), IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital (Milano), SwissVortex (Zürich), Artiness (Milano), FBGs (Belgium)

Cardiovascular diseases are the single most common cause of death in Europe and worldwide. Minimally invasive catheter-based approaches are gaining in importance as they extend treatment to patients with high surgical peri-operative risks. Today, catheter-based treatment comes with steep learning curves, poor ergonomics and exposure to damaging radiation.

ARTERY offers a radiation-free approach based on shared-autonomy robotic catheters, with increased user engagement and easy interaction. The fusion of the information yielded by echocardiography, optical and electromagnetic sensing techniques will provide a superior view upon the cardiovascular space. Fluidic actuation paired with artificial intelligence will be the pillars motors of the next generation of robotic catheters that autonomously find their way towards the target site. Through a fully immersive augmented reality interface, the operator will monitor the intravascular route of the catheter with no need for radiation-based imaging. Once into the heart, the operator will be able to navigate the intracardiac domain as if being teleported right inside the patient’s anatomy and will define the catheter target pose by simple gestures into the holographic representation. Artificial intelligence algorithms will automatically translate this input into the set of actions to be performed by the actuators. Variable-autonomy schemes allow the interventionist to take over control at any instant.

ARTERY will showcase this new paradigm on mitral valve repair and left appendage closure, two complex yet critical life-saving interventions. Clinicians and company partners are ready to take over the technology developed in ARTERY and translate it to the clinic right after the project.

In ARTERY, the expertise of our group in computational modeling, augmented reality and AI will be merged with the expertise of the Medical Robotics Section of NearLab on surgical robotics and human-robot interaction.

DIH HERO – Digital Innovation Hub: Healthcare Robotics

People involved: Giancarlo Ferrigno, Alessandra Pedrocchi, Elena De Momi blueprint-green

Funding source: EU Horizon 2020
Grant number:  825003

Funding period: 2019 – 2022


Digitising and transforming European industry and services: digital innovation hubs and platforms. A four-year project aimed at the digitalisation of the Healthcare robotics industry in all its aspects. A Third Party Funding scheme will allow SMEs to access best practice and advice for innovation in Robotics healthcare.

ALPHA-STEM – Advanced Laboratory Phantoms for Soft Tissues in Engineering and Medicine

People involved: Antonio Forte, Elena De Momi blueprint-green

Funding source: H2020-MSCA-IF-2017
Grant number:  798244

Funding period: 2018 – 2021


Advanced Laboratory Phantoms for Soft Tissues in Engineering and Medicine: ALPHA-STEM

Research has shown that the success rate in many types of surgeries is strictly related to the experience of the surgeon. However, early in their career, trainees are not given the opportunity to operate on a sufficient number of patients nor to perform an exhaustive mix of procedures. The scenario has been further worsened by the reduction of assisted training hours in Europe (since 2009) and US (since 2011). Training and technical tasks are usually practised on cadavers, animals or using virtual simulators. However, all these alternatives present difficulties: limited availability, expensive handling and preservation processes (cadaveric training), nonhuman anatomical structures (animal training), costly set-up, and doubtful skills transfer to the real operating theatre (virtual simulators). A potential solution is to promote the use of artificial synthetic models, also known as phantoms. Phantoms are reproduction of human parts and organs that allow the trainee to practice positioning of the anatomical structures as well as hand coordination. Unfortunately, they lack of reliable tactile feedback (e.g. palpation) and real tissue deformation patterns which critically reduce the fidelity of the surgical training.

The main objective of this project is to overcome the present limitations by developing phantoms capable of providing detailed anatomical structures along with an accurate tactile response when performing surgical tasks such as cutting, indention and suturing. The proposed investigation is aimed at designing, making and testing synthetic advanced materials tailored to reproduce the mechanical response of different human organs and tissues (lung, brain, liver, skin, cartilage, etc.). Direct comparisons with experimental data on organic tissues and feedback from a number of experienced surgeons will be used to validate the effectiveness of the proposed solutions during this research journey towards safer surgeries.

ATLAS – AuTonomous intraLuminAl Surgery

People involved:Zhen Li,Jorge Lazo, Luca Sestini, Chun Feng Lai, Elena De Momi, Giancarlo Ferrignoblueprint-green

Funding source: MSCA-ITN-2018
Grant number: 813782

Funding period: 2019 – 2023


Abstract:ATLAS is a Marie Curie European Joint Doctorate school (813782) that targets the training of experts in a very specific branch of Robotic Surgery. ATLAS stands for “AuTonomous intraLuminAl Surgery”. Intraluminal navigation, a particularly challenging branch,  reappears in many minimal invasive surgical (MIS) interventions that rely on steering flexible instruments through fragile lumens or vessels. The project, coordinated by the University of Leuven, is implemented by a consortium of seven Universities and many industrial partners.

The project will develop smart flexible robots that autonomously propel through complex deformable tubular structures. This calls for seamless integration of sensors, actuators, modelling and control. By engaging in this ambitious research topic, participants will be exposed to all aspects of robotics. While contributing to the state of the art, they will become proficient in building, modelling, testing, interfacing in short in integrating basic building blocks into systems that display sophisticated behavior.

SMARTsurg – SMart weArable Robotic Teleoperated Surgery

People involved: Elena De Momi, Giancarlo Ferrigno,  Nima Enayati, Hirenkumar Nakawala, Jacopo Buzziblueprint-green

Funding source: RIA H2020-ICT-2016
Grant number:H2020-ICT-2016- 732515

Funding period: 2017 – 2020

University of the West of England (United Kingdom), Ethniko Kentro Erenvas kai Technologikis Anaptyxis (Greece), North Bristol National Health Service Trust (United Kingdom), University of Bristol (United Kingdom), Istituto Europeo di Tecnologia (Italy), Idiotiko Poliiatrio Orthopaidikis Chirourgikis Athlitikon Kakoseon kai Apokatastasis Etairia Periorismeni Efthinis (Greece), Cybernetix (France), Optinvent (France), Hypertech Innovations Limited (United Kingdom)
Robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery (RAMIS) offers many advantages when compared to traditional MIS, including improved vision, precision and dexterity. While the popularity of RAMIS is steadily increasing, the potential for improving patient outcomes and penetrating into many procedures is not fully realised, largely because of serious limitations in the current instrumentation, control and feedback to the surgeon. Specifically, restricted access, lack of force feedback, and use of rigid tools in confined spaces filled with organs pose challenges to full adoption. We aim to develop novel technology to overcome barriers to expansion of RAMIS to more procedures, focusing on real-world surgical scenarios of urology, vascular surgery, and soft tissue orthopaedic surgery. A team of highly experienced clinical, academic, and industrial partners will collaborate to develop: i) dexterous anthropomorphic instruments with minimal cognitive demand ii) a range of bespoke end-effectors with embedded surgical tools using additive manufacturing methods for rapid prototyping and testing utilizing a user-centred approach, iii) wearable multi-sensory master for tele-operation to optimise perception and action and iv) wearable smart glasses for augmented reality guidance of the surgeon based on real-time 3D reconstruction of the surgical field, utilising dynamic active constraints and restricting the instruments to safe regions. The demonstration platform will be based on commercial robotic manipulators enhanced with the SMARTsurg advanced hardware and software features. Testing will be performed on laboratory phantoms with surgeons to bring the technology closer to exploitation and to validate acceptance by clinicians. The study will benefit patients, surgeons and health providers, by promoting safety and ergonomics as well as reducing costs. Furthermore, there is a potential to improve complex remote handling procedures in other domains beyond RAMIS.

EDEN2020 – An Enhanced Delivery Ecosystem for Neurosurgery in 2020

People involved: Elena De Momi, Giancarlo Ferrigno, Alberto FavaroMarco Vidotto, Sara El Hadji, Alice Segato EDEN2020 logo
Funding source: RIA H2020-ICT-2015
Grant number:ICT-24-2015- 688279

Funding period: 2016 – 2020

Due to an aging population and the spiralling cost of brain disease in Europe and beyond, EDEN2020 aims to develop the gold standard for one-stop diagnosis and minimally invasive treatment in neurosurgery. Supported by a clear business case, it will exploit the unique track record of leading research institutions and key industrial players in the field of surgical robotics to overcome the current technological barriers that stand in the way of real clinical impact.


EDEN2020 will provide a step change in the modelling, planning and delivery of diagnostic sensors and therapies to the brain via flexible surgical access, with an initial focus on cancer therapy. It will engineer a family of steerable catheters for chronic disease management that can be robotically deployed and kept in situ for extended periods. The system will feature enhanced autonomy, surgeon cooperation, targeting proficiency and fault tolerance with a suite of technologies that are commensurate to the unique challenges of neurosurgery. Amongst these, the system will be able to sense and perceive intraoperative, continuously deforming, brain anatomy at unmatched accuracy, precision and update rates, and deploy a range of diagnostic optical sensors with the potential to revolutionise today’s approach to brain disease management. By modelling and predicting drug diffusion within the brain with unprecedented fidelity, EDEN2020 will contribute to the wider clinical challenge of extending and enhancing the quality of life of cancer patients–with the ability to plan therapies around delicate tissue structures and with unparalleled delivery accuracy.

EDEN2020 is strengthened by a significant industrial presence, which is embedded within the entire R&D process to enforce best practices and maximise translation and the exploitation of project outputs. As it aspires to impact the state of the art and consolidate the position of European industrial robotics, it will directly support the Europe 2020 Strategy.
For more information, please visit EDEN2020 website.

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