ReWalk Robotics, the Israeli developers of an exoskeleton system that enables the paralyzed to walk, is going public, the latest step forward for a firm that is offering new hope to people who have lost the use of their legs.
The company announced Wednesday that it would seek to raise about $50 million with an IPO offering of 3.4 million shares at a price range of $14 to $16. With those numbers, ReWalk would be valuated at nearly $200 million. Shares would be offered on the NASDAQ stock exchange within 30 days, the company’s announcement said.
The IPO announcement follows FDA approval last month for the company to market its product as a system to enable paralyzed people to have greater mobility. ReWalk’s system received EU approval at the end of 2012. With the FDA approval, the company said inquiries by potential customers have increased significantly. As of August 1, 81 systems were sold, the company noted in its statement to the NASDAQ regarding its intention to offer shares.
ReWalk allows independent, controlled walking similar to that of an able-bodied person, as computers and motion sensors do the “heavy lifting.” The system controls movement using subtle changes in center of gravity, mimics natural gait and provides functional walking speed, enabling even paraplegics to move independently — and even to run marathons, as a paralyzed woman did two years ago.
The system has been extensively studied and tested in Israel, the US, and Europe, and is in use by people around the world who participated in ReWalk’s beta program. In addition to providing wearers with the ability to stand and walk independently, clinical studies show that using the ReWalk also provides significant mental health benefits, as users have a much more positive self-image as they gain independence and control over their movements. What’s more, the studies show, using ReWalk promotes cardiovascular health, loss of fat tissue, building of lean muscle mass, and improved bowel function. ReWalk users report that since they began using the system, they have less pain, take fewer medications, and are in the hospital less often.
ReWalk was personally reviewed by US President Barack Obama on his visit to Israel in 2013. The system was part of a special exhibition called “Israeli Technology For a Better World” at the Israel Museum, which highlighted seven of Israel’s most important tech contributions. The system was developed by Dr. Amit Goffer, an Israeli inventor who became quadriplegic after an ATV accident in 1997. It was through his personal experience in utilizing mobility devices for people with spinal cord injuries that Goffer developed the ReWalk. “The person walks the system, the system does not walk them,” Goffer said. “The users are in control — when they want to sit, they sit; when then want to stand and walk, they do so.”
The system has even been used by a paralyzed individual to run a marathon. In 2012, Claire Lomas, paralyzed from the chest down, completed the marathon course at the London Paralympics. It took her 17 days — but considering that she hadn’t been able to walk for five years due to injuries she sustained in a horse riding accident, completing the course — or even starting it — was a big deal for her. “The London Marathon was a huge ambition,” Lomas said. “It’s not what the people from ReWalk were expecting. It is one thing walking around the room but quite another to walk 26 miles after 12 weeks’ training. I never questioned I would not do it. I just took every step and every step was a step closer.”