Myomo Follows “Path of Perseverance,” Rolls Out Next-Gen Robotic Arm System for Stroke Patients

3/17/11Follow @gthuang

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(for motivation) and a “connected health” Web portal that a physical therapist or family member can log into to check up on the patient’s progress.

Some hopeful signs: Myomo has new partnerships with hospitals and clinicians around Boston, Chicago, and Southern California, as well as the University of Cincinnati’s Drake Center, University of Ulster (for game mechanics), and, as of last month, the Cleveland Clinic.

Marketing to patients and doctors is still a key challenge, of course. But Myomo’s portable device sells for $5,250, instead of around $80,000 for a stationary rehabilitation machine you might find in a hospital. The U.S. market for the device is a decent size—about 4 million patients and growing. There are some 400,000 new stroke patients a year in the U.S. who could benefit from it (out of a total annual pool of 750,000), Lewis says. But to reach them, the company needs to get two messages out to the public, according to Kelly. One is that some stroke patients can and do improve their arm function with therapy and practice (apparently this is not widely known). The second is that “personal robotics” technology can help patients get there.

Myomo has been backed by angel investors to date (less than $5 million in financing as of April 2009). Kelly wouldn’t rule out raising a venture capital round, but the firm has no stated plans to do so. The company is branching out to customers beyond stroke patients, including people with brain or spinal cord injuries and other forms of muscle weakness. If Myomo is successful with its elbow device, Kelly says, it could also move into assisting other joints in the body. (You can read about powered “exoskeleton” projects here, which have a similar concept but are for different applications, mostly military.)

Kelly talked a little about his vision for a “personal mobility system” that, in principle, could encompass something like a full-body suit for roughly the price of a car. But that’s for even further down the road. For now, Myomo is focusing on a specific joint (the elbow) and a specific pool of patients (those who have suffered strokes or other neurological injuries). And it wants to sell a lot of devices, fast.

“We can help a lot of people with this,” Kelly says. “Just being able to move is so elemental.”

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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