Algamed company is only nine months old on paper but its founders started developing devices for medical use back in 2012. Now the team is working on two products for rehabilitation of patients with locomotor system disorders.
The first orthoic device, called standing frame, helps people with limited physical abilities to stand up and remain in vertical position for some time. This ensures normal blood circulation in paralyzed limbs and helps to prevent side effects caused by recumbent lifestyle that most people with disabilities have to lead one way or another. These side effects include, for example, bedsores, lung and kidney deficiency, osteoporosis and even depression.
The second device is called parapodium and can be used during the second stage of rehabilitation when the patient is restoring his or her locomotor functions. Parapodium serves a similar function to a mechanical exoskeleton. It can adapt to the patient’s tibio-tarsic line, locks lower limbs in special footgear and helps him to make steps. The mechanism does not allow patients to simply drag their feet but forces them to make actual steps thus training their muscle memory. Parapodium exercise is an important stage of rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injuries (including cervical spine), cerebral palsy and neurological disorders that lead to paralysis.
The developers had no previous experience with medical equipment.
“We started doing this for personal reasons,” says co-founder of Algamed Marat Khaliullin. “A friend of ours suddenly lost ability to move and we were looking for ways to help him with rehabilitation.”
The company was formally established less than a year ago. It was at the same time that the founders applied for participating in the Idea-1000 contest of the Investment and Venture Fund of the Republic of Tatarstan. Algamed received support at the Start-1 and Start-2 stages and won a total of RUR 5 million ($78.4K) to improve the products and launch them in the market.
Trial and error
The first devices were developed using a cut and try method. For a long time, the developers had no plans to launch the devices in the market and commercialize them.
The project was initially started as charitable; soon, however, the founders had to face legal restrictions as devices of the kind were not allowed to be produced or presented as gift as they are considered medical products and require corresponding state authorization. Meanwhile, specialists assess this global market at $42 mio, with the annual growth of 10-15%.
According to the founders, such devices have not yet manufactured in Russia despite a large number of those who need them. There are foreign analogues in the Russian market, with the price for one quality standing frame amounting to RUR 100,000 ($1,570), which is much – particularly for those who are undergoing rehabilitation treatment. Algamed offers an orthotic device that costs half as much, with a minimum extra charge.
Yet, the team still remembers the idea behind their startup and continues to work for charitable causes. This year, Algameda devices were presented to investors at the Russian Venture Forum in Kazan. Also, a parapodium production sample was presented at the event to a boy with cerebral palsy, who was able to make his first steps.
To receive required certificates, developers gave the devices to medical workers for testing, and then made necessary adjustments. For instance, an electric drive was installed in the standing frame to allow persons with limited mobility to use the device independently, without any help from others. Another innovation was a design change that allowed for making adjustments for people of different height between 150 and 190 centimeters.
Currently, Algameda’s orthotic devices are being tested to receive documents. As the founders said, the company production facilities are located in a small premise, with development of orthotic devices taking up 80% of the team’s time.
Investments of $300,000 required
“Social companies often find it difficult to attract investments; yet, currently we are holding talks with several potential investors,” the company co-founder Airat Ibragimov says. “We are developing a business plan and seeking those who can offer the most beneficial conditions for cooperation.”
Today, Algamed expects assistance from business angels, private funds, and governmental programs for supporting innovative companies. The company plans to make agreements with government organizations on recovery of device purchase costs for those in need. These are the plans for immediate future. In three months, the company will be ready to launch its devices into the market.
By Natalya Bobrenok