Interview with a medical robotics company that offers increased arm and hand functionality

Author: Peter Matasek

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

Publication date: 23rd Mar 2020 12:30 GMT+1


Try to explain what Myomo is doing:

Myomo is a medical robotics company that offers increased arm and hand functionality for those suffering from neurological disorders and upper-limb paralysis. Based on patented technology developed at MIT, and Harvard Medical School, Myomo develops and markets the MyoPro product line of lightweight, non-invasive, powered arm braces to restore function in the paralyzed or weakened arms and hands of individuals that have suffered a stroke, spinal cord or nerve injury such as brachial plexus injury, or other neuro-muscular disability such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or multiple sclerosis (MS).  

The MyoPro is the only device that, sensing a patient’s own neurological signals through non-invasive sensors on the arm, can restore their ability to use their arms and hands so that they can return to work, live independently and reduce their cost of care.  Published research shows a clinically significant instantaneous reduction in upper extremity impairment through the use of MyoPro. 

MyoPro is referred for patients ages twelve and above at many leading rehabilitation facilities, including Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Loma Linda Medical Center and twenty VA hospitals, among others. It is fitted and delivered through clinicians nationwide, and nearly 1,000 have been used by patients. 

 

  •       Can you give an example of who your customer is?

Myomo has many amazing patients who have overcome obstacles related to their injuries, and are living independent lives with the help of their MyoPro devices. Our customers range from all ages, geographic regions, and demographics. We’re helping a multitude of audiences, including those who are paralyzed due to a stroke, spinal cord or nerve injury such as brachial plexus injury, or other neuro-muscular disability such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or multiple sclerosis. 

Zeke, an adolescent Myomo patient from the Ohio area, now attending college, was in an ATV accident over ten years ago. His injuries were dire, leaving him in the hospital for months with brain, spinal cord and brachial plexus injuries. Although he made a remarkable recovery, his injuries were too extensive in his shoulder, leaving his left arm completely useless.

Zeke’s family continued to look for a solution and came across the MyoPro brace. Since getting fitted with the device, he’s now able to complete simple tasks he once took for granted such as skateboarding with friends or helping his mom with chores. Zeke is just one of many success stories from Myomo patients who have successfully regained the use of a once paralyzed limb.

 

  •       How many people work at Myomo?

Myomo currently has 53 employees total. Beyond the headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Myomo employees span more than a dozen states around the United States in various roles.

 

  •       The labor market has been difficult to find qualified people lately, do you have this problem?

In both our field clinical positions and our headquarters engineering positions, our standards and requirements are very high, so finding qualified team members is never easy.  But we are fortunate to have a product which is innovative and exciting and truly life-changing for many people, and a culture that is high-energy and very supportive, and that attracts great candidates.

 

  •       What markets do you do best?

Patients suffering from upper extremity weakness secondary to neurological injuries (e.g. stroke, brachial plexus injury, ALS, head / spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, etc.) face a significant, historically-unmet need for restorative, powered bracing. This patient population often spends years fully exploring the potential benefits of traditional rehabilitation techniques and less sophisticated medical devices before reaching a point where progress stalls because of time constraints, limited insurance resources, as well as limits shortcomings in traditional technology. MyoPro is currently used by hundreds of adults and adolescents. Using innovative technology, MyoPro is light enough for children ages twelve and up to be able to use the device without weighing down even smaller frames. Myomo’s adolescent brace launched in June 2018.

 

  •       Are you thinking about expanding into other markets?

Later this year, Myomo will launch a brand-new device specifically designed for children under 12 and petite adults, MyoPal, which will be the only device available for ages five and up that helps to restore and regain arm and hand function. 

Given most of Myomo’s work to date has been with adults, entering the pediatric market will be a whole new venture. The new design takes most of the weight off the child’s arm so it’s easier to move around, perform daily tasks and play. The MyoPal transfers the weighted elements of the device into a sleek backpack, a product children are more suited to handle.

Myomo is already partnering with some of the top pediatric hospitals and agencies across the country including Boston’s Children’s, Cleveland Clinic, United Cerebral Palsy and Shriners to bring the MyoPal directly to their patients.

 

  •       What's the latest trend in your segment?

Our segment is powered upper limb orthoses, and Myomo has the only products in that segment, protected by a very strong patent portfolio.  Trends that we are advancing include lighter weight, smaller devices for smaller children, improved hand functionality, software advances that enable smoother, more natural movement and support for games that make therapy more fun for children and adults alike.

 

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