German prosthetics company mulls IPO for 2017

Hans Georg Naeder

German prosthetics company Ottobock is riding the tailwinds of success, scoring FDA clearance earlier this year for a more natural version of its prosthetic hand device. Now, the company is reaching for its next milestone, planning to launch an IPO in the next two years to spur development.

As CEO Hans Georg Naeder told Germany's Focus magazine, the company wants to enter the stock exchange with its "strongly growing healthcare business" in 2017, Reuters reports. Ottobock counts its healthcare business as its largest unit, with around 7,300 employees and sales of €771 million ($856 million) last year, the company said on its website. As a first step in its IPO, Ottobock would offer investors 25% stock in its healthcare business, according to the Reuters story.

The company's aspirations come at a pivotal moment in the industry, as med tech outfits look to prosthetics and mobility devices as a potentially fruitful source of growth. Ottobock's Michelangelo Hand uses electrical signals in the brain to allow users to grip and rotate objects. The company already got FDA clearance for its device in 2014, and an approval in March covered a more natural version of the product for upper limb amputees.

The Michelangelo Hand--Courtesy of Ottobock

But Ottobock is not the only one looking to cash in on the prosthetics market. Companies such as DEKA Innovative Solutions, Second Sight Medical Products ($EYES) and ReWalk Robotics ($RWLK) are all hard at work on innovative devices, scoring funds and generating positive data for their prosthetics systems. In June, Second Sight revealed promising long-term data for its visual prosthetic implant, which showed that up to 89% of subjects performed better on visual tests after using the system for three years. Earlier this month, DEKA expanded its partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) with a $7 million grant to develop a prosthetic arm with a sense of touch.

In 2014, ReWalk nabbed FDA clearance for its robotic exoskeleton. The device could help 218,000 paraplegics in the U.S. alone, a market that could be worth "billions of dollars," CEO Larry Jasinski said earlier this year. But the company could face a few hurdles along the way, as consumers and insurers grapple with the product's $71,000 price tag.

- read the Reuters story