Argo Medical technologies, whose ReWalk systems helps paraplegics walk again,
announced on Wednesday a strategic partnership with Japanese robotics leader
Yaskawa, signifying the Israel-based company’s biggest investment to date and
opening it to key Asian markets.
“Asia has patients with these kinds of
injuries in similar size and scope to the West,” Argo CEO Larry Jasinski told
The Jerusalem Post. Yaskawa is to distribute the company’s ReWalk system in
Japan, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Korea.
exoskeleton system that relies on upper-body motion sensors and special software
to create natural walking movements, was invented by Israeli entrepreneur Amit
Goffer, who became paralyzed in a 1997 accident. It is already in use in parts
of Europe and 22 rehabilitation centers in the United States. The company
expects it to receive FDA approval in the coming weeks, clearing the path for
its sale for personal use.
“I believe the partnership will expand our
footprint in Israel for Research and Development and give us access to more
markets, which helps us pay for that expansions,” Jasinski said.
partnership would allow Argo to distribute a line of Yaskawa products focusing
on rehabilitating stroke victims in the Middle East.
“Robotics has the
potential to change the world of healthcare and rehabilitation, and ARGO’s
know-how in the field will allow us to contribute to quality of life
improvements of people around the world,” said Yaskawa CEO Junji
Yaskawa’s strategic plan, entitled Vision 2015, included a goal of
further developing robots that assist and coexist with humans.
Yaskawa investment is a real game changer for this new market segment that Argo
is leading,” Jasinski said. “Partnering with what is probably the most prominent
robotics company in the world shows that this a business segment that is both
wonderful for mankind but also attractive for investors.”
version of the ReWalk, which costs 52,500 euros or $68,000-$69,000 is aimed at a
fairly young market; the average age of spinal cord injuries is 32, and multiple
sclerosis is often diagnosed in the twenties, according to the company. To work,
the system requires good upper-body strength and strong bones, as well as 15
training sessions, but it can then help patients walk, climb stairs, and in some
cases return to work. Argo estimates that it reduces medical costs by $30,000 a
year over its 5-year lifespan, meaning the investment may be worthwhile for
ReWalk has had several high-profile moments in
recent months: US President Barack Obama met paralyzed US Army Sgt. (res.)
Theresa Hannigan at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology during his
March visit to Israel, and gave the ReWalk-wearing veteran a big
Claire Lomas, a British rider who suffered a spinal-cord injury in
an accident, completed the London Marathon in 2012 with ReWalk (over 17 days)
and lit the cauldron at the Paralympic games that summer.