Waterloo startup performs world’s first autonomous robotic needle-less injection

Tim Lasswell and Nima Zamani

For the first time ever, a company founded out of the University of Waterloo’s Velocity has performed a completely autonomous robotic intramuscular injection.

The needle-less injection is possible by using a narrow, high-pressure fluid stream to inject the drug into the tissue of the patient. The robot can also scan documentation, give instructions and determine the best point of entry on the arm all autonomously and without the need to be monitored.

The company, Cobionix, founded by UW mechanical engineering graduates in 2019, used their Cobi platform to perform this robotic needle-less injection. 

“Cobi is a versatile robotics platform that can be rapidly deployed to complete tasks with 100 per cent autonomy,” said Tim Lasswell, co-founder and CEO of Cobionix. “We outfitted Cobi to use a needle-free injection technology and to demonstrate that patients could receive intramuscular injections, such as vaccines, without needles and no involvement from a healthcare professional.”

Lasswell, along with co-founder and CTO of Cobionix Nima Zamani, used their Cobi platform to develop the robot in response to the need for a high volume of vaccine injections during the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of nurses to perform them. The robot would drastically reduce these labour shortages and reduce the risk of infection for those administering vaccines.

With the start of the pandemic, manufacturing the robot was difficult due to lack of access to a suitable workspace. Zamani’s solution was to transform his garage into their office space, and therefore the first prototype of the robot was fully built in his garage using 3D printers and an electrical solder system.

The robot is equipped with LIDAR sensors, artificial intelligence position tracking and 360-degree depth perception, all which make the platform very versatile. The technology will be extended to be used for many purposes other than vaccinations. 

“Initially, we are targeting applications in healthcare, cleantech and hospitality for two reasons,” Lasswell said. “Firstly, all of these industries suffer from labour shortages and low efficiency and secondly, because our founding team has a significant amount of experience in these industries.”

Having autonomous systems able to perform tasks such as vaccinations will free up time for healthcare workers to do other important tasks. 

Since the technology and software for the Cobi robot are so complex, it will be a few years before the robot can be available on the market. A lot must be considered before they are used with the public, but they provide a very desirable alternative to needle injections and will help drastically reduce the workload for healthcare providers daily. Certainly, in the case of another pandemic, this technology would be invaluable.

Cobionix’s Youtube video of the World’s First Autonomous Robotic Injection: