Background

iWalk (later renamed BionX), a Bedford, MA based company that was purchased by prosthetics industry leader OttoBock in 2017, develops advanced biomechatronic robotics for humans with lower limb loss. In 2005, iWalk was a startup with significant intellectual property that it had licensed from MIT and MIT Media Lab. The company had no employees and was operated virtually. iWalk sought to rapidly advance it’s technology platform in a cost-effective way that would pave a clear path to commercialization.

Challenge

To assist iWalk in rapid advancement of its technology and development of a business model that would lead to commercialization of the company’s first products.

Solution

Simbex and MIT Media Lab partnered on an Army-funded Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award to translate work started at MIT towards the development of a commercial product for a biomimetic powered ankle joint prosthesis for lower limb amputees. Engineering solutions were coupled with analyses of cost, usability, and manufacturability. Business solutions were aimed at understanding the requirements and processes needed for the new product to get reimbursement coverage. Simbex leveraged knowledge of the orthotics and prosthetics space gained from the launch of the Active Contact System, a volume management system for improving the fit and function of lower limb prostheses.

Result

Business processes and analysis done by Simbex as part of the STTR work were combined into iWalk’s business model. Prototypes and work product from the STTR program were transferred to iWalk, which by the conclusion of the STTR program had an internal staff that utilized the Simbex and MIT developments in its internal product development. The resulting powered ankle, currently marketed by BionX as the Empower Ankle, is still the only prosthesis that replaces the function and power of lost muscles and tendons, and which gives patients energy while walking on level ground, up ramps, hills and stairs.

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