Cadence Biomedical Snags First $1M to Help Disabled People Walk

1/18/12Follow @xconomy

One of the co-founders of HealthTech Capital, Don Ross, offered Brian Glaister a blunt assessment last summer when the young entrepreneur came pitching a new device to help disabled people walk.

Ross responded that his wife, Donna Jang, is a stroke survivor who struggles to walk more than a couple minutes at a time. She would be the first one to judge whether Glaister’s product was as good as advertised. Glaister didn’t blink: Within a couple weeks, he was on a plane to Silicon Valley, where Ross and his fellow investors are based.

“When Brian came to us, I told him flat out, ‘You have to get a prototype sized up so Donna can try it. If she doesn’t like it, you’re toast. If she does, maybe you’ll have a shot,’” Ross recalled. “And Donna really liked it.”

Now HealthTech Capital is leading a syndicate of medical device angel investors who are putting $750,000 in equity and convertible debt, out of a round that could be worth $1 million, into Glaister’s startup, Seattle-based Cadence Biomedical. HealthTech is being joined in the financing by Alliance of Angels, Frontier Angels, Keiretsu Forum, Sand Hill Angels, and Wings. The new financing means Cadence has raised a little more than $1.5 million in investment and government grants since its founding in August 2007. It now plans to use the cash to bring the first commercial versions of its walk-assist device to the orthotics market this spring.

The Cadence technology, licensed from the Cleveland Clinic, looks like a fancy leg brace. It is essentially is one, although it has a spring that stretches from hip to ankle that is designed to store and release energy that can help propel people as they walk forward. Cadence’s hope is that can help about 2.3 million people in the U.S. who have extreme weakness in their lower legs that impairs their ability to walk—such as stroke survivors, people with partial spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, or patients with multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

There are existing alternatives, of course, like canes, walkers and wheelchairs, which have their limits. There are also newer high-tech robotic options in various iterations from companies like Berkeley, CA-based Ekso Bionics, Sunnyvale, CA-based Tibion, Israel-based Argo Medical Technologies, and New Zealand-based Rex Bionics. Cadence says its technology … Next Page »

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