Dr. Amit Goffer is back at work. The mastermind behind the bionic walking assistance system ReWalk, which enables paraplegics to stand up straight, walk and climb stairs, is now developing a device that helps quadriplegics, people paralyzed from their neck down, to stand and be mobile.
Goffer left ReWalk after the company held an initial public offering on the Nasdaq in September 2014. A quadriplegic himself, Goffer could not benefit from ReWalk, as the system requires the use of hands. So now he is developing a new mobility device, which looks like a Segway, to meet the needs of quadriplegics, allowing them to be fully mobile in both standing and sitting positions, indoors or outdoors.
UPnRIDE Robotics Ltd. is planning a commercial launch of its product at an exhibition in Germany in September.
“Rewalk is the best solution for paralyzed people but it is good for 10 percent of the wheelchair population, those who have use of their upper body because you need to be able to hold the crutches,” said Oren Tamari, the CEO of the Yokneam, Israel-based startup. “However, 90 percent of the wheelchair population still has no satisfactory solution for functional upright mobility. UpNRide’s solution is for those people, like Amit himself, who can’t use ReWalk.”
There are about 70 million wheelchair users globally, Tamari said.
UPnRIDE’s patented solution is a mobility device, as opposed to ReWalk’s walking device, and it is actually a wheelchair that brings quadriplegics from a sitting position to an upright position. Unlike other standing wheelchairs already on the market, UPnRide’s solution is good for both indoor and outdoor environments, as the center of gravity of the user stays within the center of the device — once the user is pushed up to a standing position — ensuring it remains stable. In this way the device can negotiate a variety of surfaces, sidewalks and slopes.
“The device straightens the users and, by an auto-balancing mechanism, they remain vertical to earth, even on slopes,” Tamari said. “There is no other device in the world that can do that.”
The product will also be more affordable compared to competitors, said Tamari. “If a high-end power wheelchair costs $15,000 to $45,000, our product will be priced somewhere in the middle of this range.” ReWalk’s product costs around $70,000, according to press reports.
“Being able to stand and move is extremely important for people’s psychological health,” Goffer, who is the founder and the president of UPnRIDE, says in a company video.
The company has raised $3 million to date, including a grant from Israel’s Chief Scientist and Jerusalem-based OurCrowd, a crowdfunding venture capital firm. It is now in the process of raising an additional $4 million from investors, Tamari said.