Shepherd Center Partners with Maker of Robotic Mobility Device
BERKELEY, CA, June 7, 2011 -- Berkeley Bionics (http://berkeleybionics.com), a developer and maker of exoskeletons that augment human strength, endurance and mobility, today announced its partnership with 10 of the nation’s top physical rehabilitation centers, including Shepherd Center.
The program will focus on eLEGS, a wearable robot that powers wheelchair users up to get them standing and walking. It will entail reciprocal information sharing and learning, and the definition of clinical protocols, as the company prepares to introduce eLEGS to the market in early 2012. The charter hospitals will also become the first eLEGS Centers in the world, conducting ongoing research and offering the device for the rehabilitation of their patients.
Unveiled in October, 2010, and five years in development by Berkeley Bionics, eLEGS (www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcM0ruq28dc) was No. 3 in CNN’s “Top Ten Innovations of 2010,” No. 2 in Wired’s “Top Ten Gadgets of 2010,” and one of TIME’s “50 Best Inventions of 2010.”
eLEGS is a ready-to-wear, battery-powered exoskeleton that is strapped over the user’s clothing. The user initiates the steps by triggering non-invasive movement sensors in the crutches that communicate with the computer carried in the backpack. The patient doesn’t bear the weight, however, as the device transfers its load directly to the ground. eLEGS provides unprecedented knee flexion, which translates into the most natural human gait available in any exoskeleton today. The device can be adjusted in a few minutes to fit most people weighing 220 pounds or less, and between 5 feet, 2 inches and 6 feet, 2 inches, with at least partial upper body strength.
Investigational studies of the device are already underway or about to commence in the charter hospitals. “All of the patients who have participated in our trials program thus far have been able to stand and walk within a few hours,” said Donald Peck Leslie, M.D., medical director of Atlanta’s acclaimed Shepherd Center. “Moreover, all of them thoroughly enjoyed the experience and want more time in the device.”
Kristjan T. Ragnarsson, M.D., professor and chair of Rehabilitation Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City added: “There has been little progress over the past 40 years in developing orthotic devices for people with complete paraplegia that would enable them to ambulate functionally in the community, even for short distances. The limiting factor has always been the tremendous energy consumption associated with such ambulation. As a powered exoskeleton, eLEGS may sufficiently reduce that energy consumption and enable people with paraplegia – for the first time – to functionally ambulate after their injury.”
“Five of the charter centers are among the top 10 in the country as ranked by U.S. News and World Report’s seminal annual report,” said Eythor Bender, CEO of Berkeley Bionics. “Other prestigious rankings come from the Spinal Cord Injury Model System Center and, of course, the NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) funded by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.”
Bender added: "We are on the verge of a new era of mobility for people with paralysis, using bionic exoskeletons – first in rehabilitation centers – and later making them available for home/personal use. We have been fortunate to team up with some of the most respected rehabilitation centers in the world, embarking on this important journey in a way that not only efficiently accelerates innovation and research but also ensures the safety of the users.”
The 10 participating centers are:
• Craig Hospital, Englewood, Colo.
• Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, Allentown, Penn.
• Kessler Foundation, West Orange, N.J.
• Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City, N.Y.
• Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM), Detroit, Mich.
• Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii
• Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, San Jose, Calif.
• Shepherd Center, Atlanta, Ga.
• Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston, Mass.
• TIRR Memorial Hermann, Houston, Texas
Berkeley Bionics, based in Berkeley, Calif., and founded in 2005, develops and manufactures powered and artificially intelligent human exoskeletons for military, civilian and medical uses that augment strength, endurance and mobility. In 2008, Berkeley Bionics produced HULC™, an exoskeleton that enables the wearer to carry up to 200 pounds over all kinds of terrain for hours, and in January 2009, signed a licensing agreement with Lockheed Martin Corporation to productize it.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year.