iWalk Before You iRun: MIT Prosthetics Startup Ramps Up Operations With New VC Money

1/26/11Follow @gthuang

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technical approach to other joints in the body—the hip, knee, elbow, and so forth—and also eventually develop “exoskeleton” devices (sort of like powered braces) that non-amputees could wear on their arms or legs to combat muscle weakness or augment their normal abilities. As McCarthy puts it, “The mission of the company is to restore normal function to people with limb pathology using robotics.”

But the specific focus now is on getting the prosthetic foot right, he says. That means delivering a small number of devices to a few organizations—mostly military hospitals and other clinics—and giving each unit, and patient, the attention they need. That should enable iWalk to fix any problems as they arise and to streamline its manufacturing process.

“We’re not going to sell 1,000 units to 1,000 customers,” McCarthy says. “We’ll sell a few hundred units to a few customers. We’ll begin building them in very small lots and hand delivering each unit. The hope is by the fourth or fifth lot, we’re stamping out Toyota Camrys.”

It’s hard to pin down exactly how much one of these devices will cost. McCarthy says iWalk’s customers will take advantage of existing healthcare reimbursement policies, and that the price will be “right in line with existing high-tech prosthetic devices.” (State of the art devices usually run in the tens of thousands of dollars for the payer.)

But it’s also hard to put a price on the quality of life that iWalk is selling. If all goes well, the company’s technology could profoundly impact the lives of thousands of people. Indeed, compared with existing prosthetics, McCarthy says—and as Herr can attest to personally—the PowerFoot lets amputees “walk further, faster, with less pain.” And that sounds like a definite step in the right direction.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • Dr. Suner

    What a joke this artical is. Dr Herr who started the company walks on carbon prosthetic feet because of the unreliable nature of the machine. Only a fool put this kind of money into a useless project. Look at the youtube video (iwalk on a robotic foot)

  • Steve

    It only takes 2 years and 1.2 million dollars to develop a more complex Formula race car. Why does it take 15 million and 5 years to build this ankle? I spoke to an engineer that worked on this project. He told me that the company is now all spin doctors with no Engineering skills. You can find the truth at youtube video (iwalk on a robotic foot)

  • Chris

    Anything that improves the lives of people affected by the loss of a leg is welcome news. The soldiers coming back from overseas deserve the best options and this device seems to give them a new lease on life. Any company goes through growing pains. I’m sure they will be successful and I wish them the best!

  • David Stevens

    I am a below the knee amputee and have been for over 25 years. I had the opportunity to test out the iwalk foot and can tell you as an amputee it is nothing short of amazing. I assure you it is a quantum leap from anything currently available. Very impressive.

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