New Zealand device companies, research work shine

FierceMedicalDevices recently caught up with several New Zealand-based medical device companies at AdvaMed 2010:The MedTech Conference. Several had many promising devices either already on the market or in the works.

FMD also spoke briefly with Professor Jonathan Sackier, who was representing Rex Bionics, which, as reports, won worldwide attention in July after it unveiled its robotic exoskeleton. Sackier said he was very proud of the product and sees it as a phenominal opportunity as the company works to get it approved in a number of markets. Rex has completed the requirements for the European CE Mark to enable sales in the EU and Australia and is working on the requirements for FDA clearance.

Rex, which weighs roughly 84 lbs., is designed to support and hold a person comfortably as they move. Users strap themselves in to the robotic legs with a number of Velcro and buckled straps that fit around the legs along with a belt that fits around the user's waist. The company just received an investment of NZ$1.63 million to build a second version. The funding from TechNZ, the business investment arm of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, is being matched by the company.

"By committing to R&D and matching our funding, Rex Bionics will be able to keep one team on board to work on Rex Version 1 while a new team works exclusively on Rex 2 to get it to the market faster," says Foundation Group Manager of Manufacturing & High-Growth Firms Richard Bentley in a statement. "This means Rex Bionics will be ready to leap-frog any competition in the market, with their new version."

One of the companies presenting was Zephyr Technology, developers of physiological status monitoring solutions. The company is based in Annapolis, but does a lot of research work in New Zealand. Zephyr worked with Chilean government to monitor the health and fitness levels of the 33 trapped miners trapped for nearly two months. The company's BioHarnesses recorded the miners' vital signs, pulse, heart rhythm and breathing. These small biometric monitors, mounted on chest belts, had been sent down to the miners to help keep track of their physical condition. And it was reported this week that the technology will be available for consumers to purchase by the end of November.

When the product becomes more widely available, the business will release an "app" for smart phones for downloading, the Annapolis Capital reports. The app will track the data collected by the BioHarness using Bluetooth technology, logging vital signs and indicating stress and wellness in the users.  The strap will cost  between $100 and $200, and there will be a monthly fee for using the real-time data service. The mobile app will be free.

Another Kiwi company in the news is Im-Able, which was profiled in New Zealand media this week. The company's Able-X allows stroke victims to play simple video games using an "air mouse"attached to a handlebar, which is wirelessly connected to a computer, the New Zealand Herald reports. Im-Able is trying to get FDA clearance for Able-X, as well as CE approval.