Medical tech: Össur making rapid strides towards bionic body

Scottish company Touch Bionics, which has developed the first ever bionic hand with five independently powered fingers, has been acquired for £27.5 million ($39.15 million).

The company has been acquired by Iceland-based Össur Hf, the leader in the field of bionic limbs, which is developing rapidly. Combining the expertise of the two companies will help accelerate progress towards the kind of bionic limbs only dreamed about in science fiction until now.

Touch Bionics – the first company spun out of the NHS in Scotland – gained plenty of attention in 2007 following its production of the “i-limb” – the world’s first electrically powered prosthetic hand that featured five independently powered fingers.

The i-limb can be controlled via a smartphone app, and allows users to carry out many more tasks than older prosthetic arms.

Össur has pioneered technology allowing users to control bionic limbs with their thoughts alone, a world first. This is made possible by tiny implanted myoelectric sensors (IMES), with the company unveiling its prototype’s success in lower limb prostheses last year.

Ever since its establishment in 2003, Touch Bionics has been funded by Edinburgh-based angel syndicate Archangels. An initial £5,000 from five Archangels board members was invested to allow i-limb inventor David Gow to prove his concept.

Archangels have continued their investment to this day, alongside additional investment from Scottish Enterprise. With continued investment, Touch Bionics has become a world leader in upper-limb prosthetic technology, most recently launching its i-limb quantum – another world-first that can change grips with a simple gesture.

Founder of Touch Bionics and i-limb inventor David Gow commented on the acquisition: “I am confident that this will mean that the i-limb and i-digits will be taken forward in safe hands, enabling even more wearers to benefit from this life enhancing technology.”

Touch Bionics reported a strong rise in revenues in January, thanks to growing uptake in Europe. Sales rose by 11% in 2015 to £15 million, and Össur will be looking to extend this success to global markets.

Ian Stevens, CEO of Touch Bionics, also shared his excitement over the deal: “Touch Bionics and Össur share the same vision of helping amputees live a life without limitations with the best innovation and technology available.”

President and CEO of Össur, Jon Sigurdsson, commented: “Touch Bionics has developed cutting edge upper limb technology and created a strong brand presence over recent years. This acquisition is an important milestone for Össur as it marks our entry into the upper limb prosthetic market. Össur and Touch Bionics are committed to pushing the boundaries of bionic technology to enable amputees to live a life without limitations.”

For Össur, the deal allows it to to branch into both upper-limb and “passive functional prostheses” (prosthetics designed to match the natural appearance of the wearer), extending its already existing portfolio focused on osteoarthritis and injury solutions.

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