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News Release 05-100

Robot Assistant Reports to Surgery

Machine lets nurses focus on patient care

Penelope in surgery
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Penelope SIS delivers a surgical tool to doctors removing a benign tumor from a patient's forearm.

June 21, 2005

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

For the first time, a robot acting independently and without a human operator has aided doctors performing surgery. On June 16, the Penelope Surgical Instrument Server (SIS) successfully delivered and retrieved instruments for a NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Pavilion surgical team as they removed a benign tumor from a patient's forearm.

Michael Treat, one of the hospital's surgeons and a professor of clinical surgery at Columbia University Medical Center, developed Penelope to perform some of the more mechanical and repetitive surgical tasks, thereby enabling nurses to concentrate on patient care.

The official press announcement released by the university, the hospital, and Robotic Surgical Tech, Inc.--the Columbia University Medical Center spin-off founded by Treat to develop Penelope SIS and related technologies -- can be found at:

An NSF Discovery on Penelope also is available:

Robots in the OR -- Stat!


Penelope was developed in part with funding from the National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research program through the following grants:

SBIR Phase I: Robotic Scrub Technician

SBIR Phase II: Robotic Scrub Technician

Penelope's development was also supported by grants from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the Center for Advanced Information Management at Columbia University, New York State Office of Science, Technology & Academic Research, U.S. Army Medical Research & Material Command's Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Media Contacts
Joshua A. Chamot, NSF, (703) 292-7730, email:
Craig LeMoult, Columbia University, (212) 305-0820, email:
Bryan Dotson, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Pavilion, (212) 305-5587, email:
Patrice E. Downey, Robotic Surgical Tech, Inc., (718) 432-0100, email:

Program Contacts
Om P. Sahai, NSF, (703) 292-7795, email:

Principal Investigators
Michael R. Treat, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Pavilion and Columbia University Medical Center, (718) 432-0100, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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