Myomo Continues Comeback, Adds $2M to Boost Robotic Arm Brace

10/9/13Follow @curtwoodward

Myomo, a medical-device startup whose robotic braces act like “power steering for your arm,” has buttoned up a venture round as it continues an intriguing corporate comeback story.

The newest round of financing—$2 million from individual angels and venture firm Mountain Group Capital—is the final piece of a $7 million investment the company started collecting last year.

The cash will help fuel Cambridge, MA-based Myomo’s bid to sell its motor-assisted arm braces in more of the 3,000 medical orthotics and prosthetics shops around the U.S. The company’s newest device, called the MyoPro, already is in 50 of those locations, being fitted for people who need help regaining use of an arm that has been damaged by stroke, brain injury, or multiple sclerosis.

“As one of our users said, ‘Life is so much better with two arms again,’” says CEO Paul Gudonis, who joined Myomo more than two years ago.

The company’s technology, which was born from MIT research, targets electric signals within the body that direct muscles to move. For people with strokes and similar maladies, the signals and muscles are too weak to work properly, resulting in partially paralyzed limbs.

Sensors on Myomo’s arm braces, however, can pick up those nerve signals and use them to turn on a motor near the elbow that moves the brace, boosting the user’s own intent to flex their arm.

The inital version of Myomo’s brace was designed for use in rehabilitation clinics, helping patients regain some muscle control and strength. The FDA approved the device for marketing in 2007, but Myomo had to scale back after it found the product to be a tough sell in the medical market.

By 2008, the startup had scaled back to just four employees and was looking for a new path forward. That came in the form of what’s now called the MyoPro, Myomo’s current version of the system, which is meant for patients to use at home, instead of in rehab.

Gudonis, a veteran tech executive, was brought on to steer the ship, with co-founder and former CEO Steve Kelly now serving as president, chairman, and chief operating officer.

These days, the company’s workforce is up to about 20 full- and part-time employees, and it’s looking to expand its sales and training force in an effort to get the MyoPro (which is covered by insurance providers, including Medicare) in more orthotics offices around the country.

If all goes well, Myomo could clearly take its tech to other parts of the body—and the world.

“What we see doing next is building a pediatric-sized device, to assist kids born with cerebral palsy, for example,” along with the possibility of new devices for legs, Gudonis says. “And then there’s a large international market as well.”

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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  • Tyhudg

    This is fascinating technology on so many levels, it is a shame it never gained traction the first time around.

  • Brad Marcus

    It never gained traction, because it does not work as advertised. I have the full clinical unit. No support from company on helping with upgrading units. Too much muscle tone locks the unit out and it overheats. Feel free to contact me http://www.VIPNEURORehab.com if you want to know all the reasons the product does not work and why mine (all 6 of them and a 22,500 dollar investment) continue to sit on a shelf unused.