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Open Bionics partners with NHS for a feasibility study to bring bionic hands to the U.K. health system


Open Bionics is a U.K. startup making bionic hands for patients needing prosthetics and co-founder of the company Samantha Payne came onstage today at TechCrunch Disrupt London to tell us about a new deal between Open Bionics and the National Health Service (NHS) to bring new technologies to amputees.

The deal involves a feasibility study with the NHS through SBRI Healthcare to see if Open Bionics can provide a multi-grip bionic hand to amputees for significantly less money, possibly saving the NHS millions of pounds — a significant development considering hospital-grade myoelectric hands and limbs can cost up to $100,000 in some cases, take a long time to get and don’t always fit well.

Open Bionics hands and limbs can produce its robotic hands in a matter of days and for a few thousand dollars.

Open Bionics came out of Disney’s TechStars accelerator program with a plan to dramatically lower the cost of prosthetics using a combination of open-sourced 3D printing software and robotic sensors.

We visited Open Bionics during its time with Disney. You can see that interview here:

The startup began developing robotic arms with fun themes for children such as Disney’s Frozen and Star Wars with the goal to help kids missing body parts to have something fun and enjoyable to show to their peers.

Daniel Mellville, who later joined Payne on stage said he wanted the other kids to say to those wearing an Open Bionics prosthetic, “What is this, how does it work and why can’t I have one?”

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Open Bionics said it managed to keep afloat by winning pots of money set aside in government programs and through the Techstars accelerator in the last few years of its existence but is now raising its first seed round. A seed round will help the company to grow, conduct medical testing and the several mechanical and electrical engineers needed to carry out bigger ambitions.

Though Payne didn’t want to give specifics on what the company is working on next, one of the endeavors she mentioned has to do something with video games.

“In video games, people even choose to lose a limb,” Payne pointed out.

Open Bionics also said it wants to start building lower limbs. “There’s a huge range of robotic tech and it could be made cheaper,” Payne said.

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