NEW YORK, NY / ACCESSWIRE / April 28, 2016 / From its origins as a military aid to mainstream use with regulatory approval and reimbursement, the exoskeleton, an electromechanical extention of legs and arms used for spinal cord trauma and stroke victims to restore mobility, is moving out of the physical therapy clinic into the world at large. This industry, swelling exponentiallty as populations age and more injury happens, has only a handful of players with varying degrees of technological savvy and forward-thinking leadership. Reflecting futuristic paradigms, companies like Cyberdyne (OTC: CYBQY), named after the supercomputer maker in Terminator, lead the way to revolutionary medicine.
The rehabilitation exoskeleton was pioneered by Ekso Bionics Holdings (OTCQB: EKSO), which posted $8.7 million in 2015 revenue. It also boasts recent FDA approval for its device to treat one-sided paralysis due to stroke (the first such approval in the US) and spinal cord damage covering most of the back and a portion of cervical vertebra - lending therapy to a large range of patients and expected to become standard of care in the clinic. The exoskeleton 'suit' comprises a backpack-like control center, sturdy leg, calf and hip support with embedded electronics, and a walking cane. EKSO's customer base is wide and growing.
A relative newcomer to the exoskeleton scene, Bionik Laboratories (OTCQX: BNKL) built a sleeker version, ARKE, for rehabilitation and, eventually, home use. With design stemming from the work of two engineers delving into direct communication between brain and device, ARKE is more streamlined, lighter and more comfortable than Ekso's product yet contains more sensors to detect and record movement. Also different, ARKE's operation is wireless through a touch-controlled tablet with a longer battery life, and transmits data through an Internet cloud.
Bionik's breadth of product offering is much bigger than Ekso. Whereas the latter caters to industries other than healthcare (factory workers and soldiers) to aid in lifting and carrying heavy loads, Bionik keeps laser-focused on its core competency: bringing patients closer to normal movement. In addition to ARKE, its unparalleled robotics technology is applied to arms, hands, wrists, ankles and knees, using proprietary intelligent interactive expertise that senses movement and limitations in a feedback loop to give the disabled help, as needed, in real-time. Offering even more value and credibility to its innovations, devices were designed and built in conjunction with MIT.
Also unique to Bionik is collaboration with IBM. Recognizing Bionik's penchant for machine learning - an area the tech giant explores with MIT - IBM invited Bionik to join forces tapping how the human brain can be 'computerized' to aid in rehabilitative medicine. A plus for IBM: making headway into categorizing reams of human motion data used by clinicians; for Bionik: letting IBM and its privately-owned cloud organize patient information from ARKE, find patterns in sensory learning, and return to interested parties to improve outcomes in neurological rehabilitation.
Given the tight synergies among Bionik, IBM and MIT, it's easy to understand Bionik's acquisition of sister robotics firm Interaction Motion Technologies which gave Bionik a new line of products for both lower and upper body, commercialized in 20 countries. A ready-made revenue stream is now available while research and development ensues from the world's best robotic minds, formerly of MIT and now part of Bionik Labs.
Bionik must not be grouped with the clutter of currently-available exoskeletons. Comparison with Ekso is likening a Jaguar to a Honda Civic. There is one competitor, however, suitable for association: Japanese based Cyberdyne, whose device has several of the same features as ARKE, most notably robotic aid to lower limbs rendered unworkable by neurological injury and use of bio-electric (nervous system) signals via feedback to effect limb movement. The similarity stops there. Bionik has a suite of devices to address many mobility maladies; Cyberdyne only one. Yet Cyberdyne trades at a market cap of $4.6 billion versus Bionik's $78 million, an unwarranted discrepancy that, with deepening investor awareness of ARKE's therapeutic value and vast product scope, should narrow considerably, and soon.
Sharon di Stefano
SOURCE: Small Cap Forecasting, Inc.