New advanced ankle-foot prosthesis from VUB spinoff also works properly with flat battery

New advanced ankle-foot prosthesis from VUB spinoff also works properly with flat battery

VUB spin-off Axiles Bionics has received a European subsidy of €2.5 million from the EIC

Accelerator Programme to develop a new generation of bionic feet. These are ankle-foot prostheses with an ankle joint. The company also won a European Technology Award at the end of last year. Its first ready-to-use ankle-foot prosthesis is now on the market: the Lunaris, a basic model that can be upgraded in modular fashion to become the most advanced prosthesis available.

“Most ankle-foot prostheses on the market do not have a joint at the ankle,” says Dr Ir Pierre Cherelle, CEO and founder of Axiles Bionics. “These are often models made using technology from the 1970s and 80s. They cause a lot of secondary pathologies, such as osteoarthritis or back pain in the patient, as the body compensates for the motor difficulties of taking steps with them. Our new prosthesis has not only a joint but also technology adapted to the movement of the ankle. In most common jointed prostheses, there are hydraulic dampers to absorb shock when walking. However, years of study at VUB, with support from Innoviris, has shown that this absorption has the opposite effect on movement comfort: a foot actually has to supply energy to take a step.”

Axiles Bionics has benefited from 15 years of sustained support from Innoviris, the Brussels technology and innovation agency, for robotics research at VUB’s BruBotics research group, focusing on advanced robotics, AI and human biomechanics. The company has developed a technology that can approximate the unique combination of strength and flexibility of a human ankle. “Our bionic foot helps active amputees who want to move and feel complete again by compensating for lost leg muscles during exertion,” Cherelle says.

“We now have a market-ready technology, yet some areas of work remain. Bionic feet that run out of power go into security mode and stop working completely. They then become a liability rather than an aid to walking. We have developed, by analogy with the electric bike – you can still ride it if it runs out of power – a basic model of an ankle-foot prosthesis, the Lunaris, with which you can walk well even without power. We’ve tested it on 200 patients and it appears to work very well.”

About one in 1,000 people undergo an amputation, which in 70 per cent of cases is a geriatric procedure. The remaining 30 percent are mostly young people who have suffered an accident, have a congenital problem, have been cured of bone cancer or have undergone amputation due to a serious infection. Those patients, who are healthy again after surgery and still have a long life expectancy, are the target market for Axiles Bionics.

“Due to their cost, our prosthetics are not really suitable for mass use in war situations, for example,” says Cherelle. “They cost about as much as a small car and are only partially reimbursed by health insurance. We are therefore introducing alternative business models to make such a prosthesis affordable for everyone. The price is also a consequence of our sustainability goals in terms of production, which is done almost entirely in Belgium, with a small part in Europe. Some highly specialised parts not available in Europe are sourced elsewhere.”

More information

Dr Ir Pierre Cherelle

+32 476 37 82 82

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