Every year, around 250,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury resulting in permanent paraplegia. The primary means of mobility for people with paraplegia is the wheelchair, which exposes users to long-term health problems such as loss of bone density, cardiovascular problems, and reduced blood flow.
To address these risks for people with mobility impairment, TWIICE's exoskeleton gives people back access to mobility and reconnects them to their community. Indeed, this light, motorised exoskeleton for the lower limbs allows people with a disability to stand up and walk again, even in case of complete paraplegia. The exoskeleton developed by TWIICE is one of the only devices capable of climbing stairs and is one of the lightest, with a weight of only 16 kg. TWIICE's innovation is based on a modular design and digital manufacturing methodology: the modular architecture of the exoskeleton allows TWIICE to offer a product that adapts to different pathologies, morphologies and activities such as ski touring.
The development of the modular exoskeleton started in 2016 within the Rehabilitation and Assistive Robotics Group at EPFL. In less than a year, the group of 4 PhD students and engineers developed the first version of TWIICE. Since then, TWIICE has won nearly 4 medals - 3 gold and 2 silver - at the Exoskeleton Olympics and first place in the Global Innovation Challenge life support competition. In addition, the start-up has surrounded itself with a vast network of partners, including the Bâloise Group, the equipment manufacturers Sonceboz and Fischer Connectors, as well as various organisations in rehabilitation and physiotherapy, thus enabling TWIICE to position itself as a future major player in restoring mobility to disabled people.
The FIT Tech Seed loan will help fund the clinical trial, which will start in April 2022 is associated with the Swiss Paraplegic Centre and is designed to ensure that the physiological benefits are delivered safely to the patient. In addition, the 9-month trial will allow for the acquisition of the CE mark, which are essential for the commercialisation of the exoskeleton.