Beyond the Limits: how MedTech changes our lives
Bionic prostheses, an exoskeleton that helps you move after a stroke, skin printing on a 3D printer for transplantation — all this has long ceased to be fantasy. Every year, innovative developments appear in the field of MedTech, which until recently seemed to be impossible.
According to Statista, over the past 10 years, MedTech products have generated more than $150 billion in revenue and are continuing to grow. The market is developing and growing in scale, however, not all products can boast of being in demand by customers and of good quality. And while American companies remain leaders in the production of medical technologies, Russian enterprises are also trying to keep up and offer solutions that the whole world is interested in.
It is often difficult for small companies to survive with their developments in the Russian technology market. The lack of investment and, as a result, the inability to establish production, the lack of a clear plan and strategy for promoting the product, the lack of networking — all this has a negative impact on the startups development. By the way, it is accelerators that can help a startup at the initial stage with almost all of the above points. Many accelerators have access to venture funds that can support a promising project. But this is preceded by detailed preparation on the part of a startup and the ability to convince investors that it is their project that is worthy of investment and that the market needs it — long-term demand is a key element for investors.
Live a full life
One of the most significant developments in recent years has been bionic prostheses, thanks to which people who have lost their upper or lower limbs can live a full life. The developers of bionic hand prostheses in Motorika, a Russian company, explain the principle of their work as follows: “The bionic prosthesis works by reading the electrical potential generated by the special myoelectric sensors during the tension of the remaining muscle tissues of the hand. Myoelectric sensors transmit the read signal to the microprocessor, the brain of the entire prosthesis, which processes the received information using computer algorithms. As a result, the microprocessor, based on the received signal, generates commands in a fraction of a second and sends them to the engines (motors), which set the active parts of the prosthesis in motion.”
Motorika is one of the Russian leaders in the production of prostheses. The company has been on the market for quite a long time — 9 years. In 2014, when Motorika was still at the startup stage, its founders Vasily Khlebnikov and Ilya Chekh took part in the BioMedTech track, which was held by the GenerationS Corporate Innovation Development Platform. Like many other start-up companies, they needed help in developing their project. However, beyond that, the accelerator helped them to package the product and make it attractive to investors.
Today Motorika is a successful company in the Russian market and is developing internationally. Motorika operates in the CIS countries, France, India, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia and South Korea. In 2021, the company raised 200 million rubles from the Far East High Technology Fund (FEHTF) and 100 million rubles from the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). According to the company’s own data, its share in the Russian market is about 13–15%, and revenue for 2020 amounted to 130 million rubles. During the existence of the company, more than 3,000 people from all regions of Russia and other countries have used its services. Since the prosthesis is available to everyone, anyone can place an order and be sure of the quality and design of the product.
At the same time, you can order a prosthesis for both adults and children (children’s prosthetics are available from 2 years old). In fact, this is no longer just a prosthesis, it is a gadget, lightweight and multifunctional, which is no longer masked under the arm. A cyber-hand can have style, with an individual design, be complemented with a display with the functionality of a smart watch or a bank card chip to pay for purchases and fares. Also, the prosthesis is equipped with a touchscreen fingertip to use a smartphone.
The prosthesis helps to train muscles and has a positive effect on the physical and psychological state of a person: with the help of a cyber-hand, people can perform “fine” operations, in particular do creative work. With a prosthesis, you can also ride a bike, skateboard, work on computer or actively play sports.
Movement in a new way
There are many stories similar to the story of Motorika in Russian practice. For example, Techbionik company which also makes prostheses and orthoses, has achieved considerable success. In November last year, it got the VOIR-2021 award (award of the All-Russian Society of Inventors and Innovators) for its achievements in the field of science. At the beginning of his journey, Stanislav Muravyov became a member of the GenerationS acceleration program, that helped him to develop his startup and provided him with suggestions in what form he could present the idea to investors.
Today, Techbionic is engaged in developments in three areas: bionic prosthetic hands, robotic orthoses and mechanotherapy. SmartLi, a range of modular bionic hand prostheses, has been created and is being produced, which includes a working prosthesis, prostheses for children and adults with various levels of amputation, including partial amputation or congenital anomaly of the hand. Modular orthoses, which are needed in case of mild to moderate motor dysfunction, cerebral palsy, after a stroke or injury, are made individually and serve for orthopedic correction. It prevents secondary deformities of the limb and works as a kind of simulator. In 2020, the company’s revenue amounted to 975,000 rubles, which is significantly better than the industry average. The company plans to develop its products and conquer new heights of the Russian market.
At the end of 2021, the company began the first sales of prostheses as part of the RT Children of War project. The revenue for this year amounted to 2.4 million rubles.
Some 10 years ago, we heard about exoskeletons in the movies or could read about them in some futuristic material. Today, Russian startups are developing solutions in this area and are in demand not only in Russia, but also abroad.
One of the leaders in the Russian exoskeleton market is ExoAtlet, which offers its solutions for the rehabilitation of patients with disorders in the lower body. In 2014, ExoAtlet received the main prize at the Startup Village conference and became a Skolkovo resident. In the same year, the company entered the TOP-5 of the GenerationS competition and performed at the World Robotics Olympiad in Sochi. In 2016, ExoAtlet approached potential American investors. In February, representatives of the company visited Los Angeles, where, during the CSM physiotherapy conference, held negotiations with one of the largest private clinics in the United States, Medstar, and in the following month, the company conquered South Korea by participating in the Kimes international medical exhibition. Today, the company continues to develop exoskeletons and improve its equipment.
Exoskeletons enable people with various injuries to move and live almost to the fullest. This mobile mechanism works with the help of a system of electric motors, hydraulics, levers and other technological solutions. By using it a person not only starts to move, at the same time the muscle strength grows, the range of motion increases, and sometimes with the help of an exoskeleton a person can literally recover legs. Plus, the ability to move favorably affects the psychological state of the patient. The exoskeletons are set in motion thanks to signals from sensors and electromyograms, and are controlled using buttons located on crutches. Algorithms of the device and built-in drives repeat the natural human walking. The exoskeleton weighs about 20 kg, but the patient does not feel this weight, because the movements are automated and supported by the system itself.
According to the estimates of the International Medical Cluster Foundation, in the next five years the growth rate of the medical services segment in Russia will accelerate dynamically and will amount to 10–15% per year. This means that more and more startups will be able to present their products and be in demand.