Media Release

Newsroom Releases 2013 September Innovative medical device a step closer to market

17/09/2013
Innovative medical device a step closer to market
JCU researchers have developed a non-robotic device that helps stroke survivors regain upper limb mobility.

Innovative medical device a step closer to market

First published September 17, 2013

James Cook University researchers have developed a non-robotic device that helps stroke survivors regain upper limb mobility.

In partnership with Townsville-Mackay Medicare Local and the University of Queensland (UQ), JCU has formed a start-up company, SMART Arm Pty Ltd, which was recently awarded about $200,000 to help get the product to market.

The Early Stage Commercialisation grant from Commercialisation Australia will help obtain Therapeutic Goods Administrator approval for their unique SMART Arm™, or Sensory-Motor Active Rehabilitation Training Arm, medical device.

The device enables stroke survivors with upper limb weakness to drive their own rehabilitation through feedback on performance via an interactive computer program and incremental increases in load and reaching range.

In clinical trials, the SMART Arm™ has shown a 50 per cent improvement in patients’ arm function in a four-week period, compared to nine weeks of a standard rehabilitation program.

The SMART Arm™ has also recently been featured on the TV program Catalyst: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3780732.htm

Dr Andrew Leech, Manager of Innovation and Commercialisation at JCU, has worked with the lead researcher Dr Ruth Barker, from JCU’s School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, to drive the project forward.

“The SMART Arm™ is a great example of the world class translational research being performed at JCU,” Dr Leech said.

“Dr Barker first conceived the idea for the SMART Arm™ about eight years ago, so it is a credit to her and the team for staying committed on the long and difficult path to launch a medical device on the market.”

Dr Leech said the funding would be critical for obtaining Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval and getting the SMART Arm™ on the market, where it can benefit the 42,000 Australians that suffer a stroke annually. The TGA is Australia's regulatory authority for therapeutic products.

“It is great to see the federal government backing the commercialisation of groundbreaking Australian technology through schemes such as Commercialisation Australia.”

Commercialisation Australia is a federally funded program that helps to commercialise intellectual property such as inventions.

After the funding application was submitted in June, the team found out it was successful in early July.

Dr Leech said it was rewarding to receive news of the funding.

“It was very exciting to hear we had won the funding, as it was the last piece necessary to ensure that we could get the SMART Arm™ on the market,” he said.

“After the SMART ArmTM was featured on Catalyst, we received over 200 enquires in a few days, so we knew we had a product that people really needed.”

Dr Leech said the funds would be spent to develop a fourth-generation prototype of the SMART ArmTM that would meet the requirements for TGA approval, which is needed to be able to sell the SMART Arm™ as a medical device in Australia.

The redesign and manufacture of the SMART Arm™ will be conducted at MEXX Engineering on the Gold Coast.

JCU has also been working closely with Townsville Mackay Medical Local (TMML), an investor in SMART Arm Pty Ltd.

“Having TMML as a partner has been a huge bonus, they have not only helped fund the project, but have offered insight into the development from the perspective of a rehabilitation service deliverer.”

The SMART Arm™ is expected to be commercially available in Australia within the next 18 months.

For interviews, contact Dr Andrew Leech on (07) 4781 5033.

JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175