BioScience Managers invests in REX Bionics

Tuesday, 12 September, 2017

Australian life sciences investment firm BioScience Managers has chosen a robotic exercise assist device (REX) as its first investment for the Biomedical Translation Fund.

The REX Bionics robotic device has been in development for over a decade and has racked up thousands of hours of user experience, helping to transform the lives of people with a range of mobility problems, stemming from spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, brain injuries and neuromuscular conditions, BioScience Managers Managing Director Jeremy Curnock Cook said.

The latest version of REX, now available from the company’s purpose-built manufacturing facility, targets the rehabilitation market, and units are currently on trial in Australia and New Zealand, as well as rehabilitation centres of excellence in the UK and the USA.

Cook said the current version of REX will remain available to the rehabilitation market for at least another five years, while the company continues to build clinical data and user experience, demonstrating the significant health benefits of the device.

“Additional capital will fund the recently announced development program with a leading global automotive firm.

“Through that program REX expects to enhance the monitoring of the user, and a switch to new materials and reconfigured engineering should lead to weight reduction and a faster and quieter device,” Cook said. 

He said wheelchair users are at risk of developing many medical complications due to extended periods of sitting and REX allowed them to spend more time standing, walking and exercising.

“The health benefits of using REX include improved sleep and maintaining joint range, a reduction in spasm, pain and common abdominal problems and reducing prescription drug use,” he said.

“The clinical trials that have been completed so far and the development of robotic assisted physiotherapy have all shown there is both a strong need and a clear health imperative for continuing the full commercialisation of REX,” Cook said.

BioScience Managers was one of three fund managers chosen to invest on behalf of the $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF) set up by Australia’s federal government.

Of that total, BioScience Managers is responsible for investing $100 million, half coming from the federal government BTF and the other half of which was raised privately. The investment in REX continued the fund manager’s approach of being hands on with management and taking a relatively large stake in a smaller number of investments, BioScience Managers Chief Investment Officer Matt McNamara said.

“This fits ideally as the sort of investment we like with a significant unmet need, a strong path to commercialisation and the potential for high net returns,” McNamara said.

“We like to invest in innovative companies in which we can add significant value with the potential to relieve human suffering and REX ticked all of those boxes.” McNamara said the BioScience Managers team would continue to exhaustively comb through up to 200 Australian public and private investment opportunities until it had found the right opportunities that combined significant technological and/or market advantages and the ability to excel commercially in international and local markets.

“Australia is very strong on scientific research and development but our record on commercialisation is not as strong and that is where the Biomedical Translation Fund managers can help to develop a brighter global outlook.

“That commercialisation stage is vital and companies need to be extremely tactical and form the right partnerships at the right time ensure the company has a strong future,” McNamara said.

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