ABLE Human Motion: Revolutionising rehabilitation for independent living
Part of EIT Health’s mission is to enable European citizens to live longer, healthier lives. That’s why we put people at the heart of our solutions.
Co-creation between innovators and those who will ultimately benefit from their work is critical to delivering solutions that have, in their DNA, a true understanding of the challenges they seek to overcome. Connecting patients, citizens and healthcare professionals is key to the success of new products and services coming to market in healthcare.
ABLE Human Motion is a fine example of true co-creation. The Barcelona-based start-up responded to a clear unmet need amongst the community of people living with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). Supported by EIT Health, the team is developing robotic exoskeletons hand-in-hand with those living with the condition.
The story of ABLE Human Motion
SCI may be caused by an accident or biological condition such as disease, infection or tumour.1 SCI often leaves people paralysed, which can mean a loss of freedom, as people find it difficult to do things they previously could such as walk, stand and climb stairs.2 Paralysis can cause considerable stress in daily life with some people forced to leave their job and move home. In fact, the global unemployment rate is more than 60% 1 and depression and anxiety disorders are common, affecting around a third of those living with SCI.3
Exoskeletons are wearable devices designed to support people living with disabilities to stand up and move around, leading to increased independence.4 They work by detecting when the person displays an intention to move. But current exoskeletons are expensive (ranging from $67,000 – $160,0005) and can weigh about 20 to 25kg, meaning they are not widely available for people to use in their everyday lives.4 In most cases, a wheelchair is currently the only option.
Alfons Carnicero is Co-founder and CEO of ABLE Human Motion. He realised the only way to create an exoskeleton that truly addresses this unmet need was to work directly with people living with SCI. However, the processes of both co-creation and starting a business were new to him and his team of engineers.
EIT Health offered ABLE Human Motion vital funding and business support to get them started. Through EIT Health, ABLE Human Motion was connected with expert clinicians with extensive experience helping paraplegic individuals. With this support, ABLE Human Motion were able to confidently involve people living with SCI in each stage of development. Every new feature and component they create is tested and validated by people living with SCI.
This process has enabled ABLE Human Motion to develop an exoskeleton that is designed to empower those living with SCI. The exoskeleton can be attached to the user directly from a wheelchair, allowing the user to stand up and walk with independence, with future functionality planned to enable the user to climb stairs and ramps. By focusing on a specific group of people who have limited movement in the hip, ABLE Human Motion has been able to design an exoskeleton that is lighter, easier to use and more affordable than currently available solutions.
The team is working on clinically validating and certifying the exoskeleton as a medical device, to bring their solution to patients across Europe. Find out more here.
Each year, up to 930,000 people worldwide suffer a life-changing spinal cord injury. In 2015, Iván was diagnosed with SCI after removal of a tumour in his spine. He was left unable to walk and in a wheelchair. His SCI meant leaving his job, changing home and, devastatingly, no longer being able to play football with his son.
ABLE Human Motion set out to design an exoskeleton that would better meet the needs of people like Iván.
Creating people-centred innovation
In addition to providing necessary funding and business skills support, EIT Health’s partner network helped ABLE Human Motion to meet and work with people living with SCI, such as Iván, as well as build a consortium of leading partners.
Iván became so interested in ABLE Human Motion and the work they were doing, that he became a shareholder. Together Iván, ABLE Human Motion and the partners are collaborating to further develop and clinically validate the ABLE Human Motion exoskeleton both in the hospital and homecare setting.
Co-creating to improve lives
With support from EIT Health, ABLE Human Motion has been successful in raising private funding to develop their exoskeleton – something that would have been difficult to achieve otherwise.
Eventually, ABLE Human Motion aims to provide solutions for people with other mobility impairments and neurological conditions.
Working with EIT Health has brought us quality and credibility, they have provided us with knowledge and access to best-in-class experts from all over the healthcare value chain. We now have partners from leading hospitals, universities and businesses around Europe.
Alfons Carnicero, Co-founder and CEO, ABLE Human Motion
The work I’m doing with ABLE Human Motion has given me the hope that together we can find a solution to improve the SCI population’s quality of life.
Iván Camps, living with Spinal Cord Injury since 2015
ABLE Human Motion Spotlight PDF
WHO. Spinal Cord Injury. 2013. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/spinal-cord-injury [accessed February 2020]
Karimi MT. Evidence-based evaluation of physiological effects of standing and walking in individuals with spinal cord injury. IJMS 2011; 36(4): 242–253.
Zürcher C, et al. Mental health in individuals with spinal cord injury: The role of socioeconomic conditions and social relationships. PLoS One. 2019; 14(2): e0206069
Gorgey AS. Robotic exoskeletons: the current pros and cons. World J Orthop 2018; 9(9): 112–119.
Gorgey AS. Sumrell, R. and Goetz, L.L. (2019). 44 – Exoskeletal Assisted Rehabilitation After Spinal Cord Injury.
GBD 2016 Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injury Collaborators. Global, regional, and national burden of traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. THE LANCET Neurology. volume 18, issue 1, p56-87, January 01, 2019