Date: Jan 13, 2016 Author: Yann Ranaivo Source: Roanoke Times (
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A successful partnership involving new medical technology will enable another business venture.
Roanoke's Luna Innovations has received another multi-million dollar cash infusion for a medical tool it invented, and it plans to use that money to further another business pursuit -- building lighter, yet more resistant cars and aircraft.
Just before the year ended, Luna received $9 million from Silicon Valley-based Intuitive Surgical Inc. The money is part of a long-term deal in which Intuitive obtained the exclusive rights to a Luna tool that's used with a device designed to make medical surgeries less invasive.
The deal kicked off two years ago when Intuitive paid Luna an initial $12 million to get the rights to the tool.
The surgical device or fiber optic cable that Luna's tool complements allows its user to mark parts of the body prior to operations while limiting the incision's size.
Luna's sensing tool also reduces the use of X-rays to track the cable, limiting the patient's exposure to radiation that can cause illness or lead to worse health problems such as cancer.
Intuitive agreed to pay Luna another $18 million later -- over an unspecified amount of time -- from the sensing tool's anticipated royalties.
However, Intuitive Surgical decided to fast-track the second part of the deal by offering to pay the Roanoke company $9 million last month. Luna decided to take the $9 million instead of waiting for the potential $18 million.
Luna CEO and president My Chung said the first $12 million payment from Intuitive Surgical helped his company complete a merger with Michigan-based Advanced Photonix Inc. that allowed Luna to more than double its business to $50 million.
Luna will now use the $9 million to increase its business in another area, that of using fiber optic cables to test and identify ways to improve composite materials for building more fuel efficient and resistant cars and aircraft.
Luna, which employs about 240 people, was founded in Blacksburg in the early 1990s and is now headquartered in Roanoke. The company still maintains a corporate office at the Blacksburg Industrial Park, a large corporate and research property located just east of U.S. 460 business.
The also company runs another location in Charlottesville.