Tibion gives stroke patients a ‘bionic’ leg up

October 20, 2010 source: San Francisco Chronicle Business Report

“With the help of a physical therapist, Micha Hoy strapped a big black computer-controlled device onto her left leg, which has had limited mobility since she experienced a stroke nine years ago.

“I feel like I should be in the ‘Matrix’ movies,” the San Francisco architect joked.

Actually, the 7-pound device looks even more like a spare part from “RoboCop.” The Tibion Bionic Leg, invented by a Sunnyvale firm, is a robotic rehabilitation device to help stroke patients relearn how to walk…”

“… After several years of trials and clinical testing, Tibion began marketing the leg early this year. Its model is to rent it to rehab facilities, skilled nursing centers and physical therapy centers at $700 a month for 20 hours’ use; as with a cell phone plan, customers pay more the more they use.

Patients who use the device at these centers pay for it and request reimbursement from their insurance. At UCSF, for instance, Byl said the fee is $150 an hour for physical therapy with the Tibion – $30 more than the regular cost.

Only about 15 units were manufactured this year. Next year, Tibion hopes for 60 or 70. But, beyond that, its goals are large.

“If we can establish this as a standard of care, we could grow to a $100 million company in the next five or six years,” Remsberg said, pointing out that there are 600,000 new stroke patients in the United States every year, half of whom get classified as paralyzed on one side.

Raising venture capital

The company is raising venture capital to drive its expansion.

Ted Driscoll, a technology partner at VC firm Claremont Creek Ventures, said it participated in a $6 million round of funding for Tibion.

“We believe this is the beginning of a bionic age, actual products helping disabled people get back normal functions,” Driscoll said. “Bionics is a market that’s here now; it’s no longer movies.”

Albert Azizian, a Milpitas mechanical engineer, said he had used a wheelchair since his stroke 10 years ago. After two months using the Tibion device, he is now able to walk with a cane and to use more exercise machines in the gym, he said.

“It made my brain make good connections,” he said. “Before, I couldn’t walk; right now, I can do better and better.”

Read the full story at San Francisco Chronicle Business Report