Chinese tech media 36Kr reported yesterday that BionicM (健行仿生), a Chinese company producing motor-powered prosthesis, had raised tens of millions of yuan in a fresh round of founding.
The round was led by NVenture Capital, a wholly owned subsidiary of NEC. Other participants in the deal include Shinsei Corporate Investment, The University of Tokyo’s UTokyo Innovation Platform, Kiraboshi Financial Group, Chiba Bank, AIS Capital, and ex-Anker Japan CEO Yoshitsune Ido and Yan Hao, chairman of EPS Holdings.
The money raised will be used to expand sales of its flagship prothesis Bio Leg and its more affordable mass-market variation Cybo Leg. Besides, it will be spent to develop next-generation artificial limbs and support the R&D of gait motion sensing and gait assistance technologies.
Proceeds will also go to organization optimization, business development, and global market distribution, according to Dr. Sun Xiaojun, CEO of BionicM.
BionicM netted tens of thousands of yuan in its previous Series A round in September 2020.
BionicM, founded separately in Japan and China in 2018, is run from both its Tokyo and Shenzhen offices. By employing humanoid robotic technology from the University of Tokyo, the startup looks to build smart mobile prostheses catering to amputation victims.
Most prosthesis products currently available in the market are not motor-driven. Wearing immobile and sometimes heavy prostheses poses obstacles to handicapped users. Globally, there are 12 million amputees who lost their lower limbs and demand higher-end prostheses to improve their life, and their numbers have kept growing.
This has led to a market valued at US$ 6 billion. To grab a slice of the pie, BionicM released the flagship prosthesis named Bio Leg in Japan and China, becoming the first Asian company to develop, manufacture and market premium mobile prostheses, a segment long dominated by European and American companies.
BionicM’s work on smart artificial limbs dates back to 2015, when research began in the JSK Lab at the University of Tokyo. In 2018, the startup commenced production under the name BionicM. In 2021, after 10 iterations, Bio Leg reached mass production and became ripe for sale.
“To satisfy the safety needs of prosthesis users in all scenarios, Bio Leg can instantly generate strong electric currents and great torque,” said Dr. Sun, founder of BionicM. “In a reverse drive mode, Bio Leg is equipped with reverse voltage protection and energy recovery, whereby the robot feeds the surplus power to EDLC (electric double layer capacitor).”
Notably, the motor drive technology utilized in Bio Leg is self-developed and BionicM looks to apply it in other robotic categories.
Based on the technology and experience gained from Bio Leg, BionicM debuted Cybo Leg in early February 2022, which it says is hopeful of becoming the most “cost-effective” motor-powered prosthesis.
Unlike in traditional modes of gait analysis, where special equipment are needed indoors to collect data about the user’s knee and hip angles and ground reaction force, BionicM’s innovations have made it possible to gather the information outdoors.
Its Bio Leg, equipped with multiple sensors, can gather the data regardless of time and place, and then beam it over to be processed for the purpose of rehab training and gait analysis. This could provide useful reference for prosthesis technicians, physiotherapists and users, said BionicM in a statement.
The company is applying for an FDA certificate and plans to complete another round of financing in the second half of this year to set the ground for its entry into the US market. It is already in talks with some American dealers.