Robotic Prosthetics Startup Alt-Bionics Wins New Innovation Award

By Iris Gonzalez
Alt Bionics founder Ryan Saavedra works on a robotic hand prototype, courtesy image

San Antonio robotics startup Alt-Bionics has garnered the first-ever Shaun D. Kennedy Award Of Excellence In Empathy & Innovation. On Monday, founder Ryan Saavedra announced his robotics startup had won this award and a non-diluting $15,000 cash prize that will help Alt-Bionics closer to its goal of helping those in need of an affordable robotic hand.

“Alt-Bionics mission is to create high functioning, highly affordable prosthetic devices for below-elbow amputees,” Saavedra said. “We plan to expand our line of prosthetics over time to produce bionic upper limb and lower limb devices.”

San Antonio philanthropist Harvey Najim created this award to recognize an entrepreneur building a company focused on solutions for those with physical or developmental disabilities. The award is named in honor of the late Shaun Kennedy, who was actively involved with the special needs community of San Antonio, the Down Syndrome Association of San Antonio, and the Special Olympics.

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) electrical engineering graduate and his team of three classmates built a robotic hand that won second place at the university’s May 2019 Tech Symposium, the annual competition for students to showcase their design and engineering skills.

Using open-source designs, the team built a 3D-printed model for $600 — a fraction of the nearly six-figure price tag of many robotic prosthetics available on the market. Their medical device offers patients an artificial intelligence-enhanced bionic prosthetic at a fraction of the typical price.

The costs of commercially available robotic prosthetic hands range from $15,000 to $50,000. Additionally, repairing these hands usually requires expensive proprietary components. In almost all cases, a trained professional must conduct repairs.

Since graduating in May 2020, Saavedra has focused on producing an affordable prosthetic medical device. The company’s provisional patent applications are pending, and Saavedra has applied for an FDA Class 1 medical device registration. 

“We have two goals for our company,” said Saavedra. “The first is to bring these devices to market at an affordable cost while maintaining a durable and robust design. The second is to keep trying to disrupt and alleviate the pricing methods surrounding the artificial limbs market.”

Alt-Bionics officially closed its second round of financing of $650,000 in April. The startup has received a total investment of $923,000 since launching in May 2020. The seed funding will help accelerate prototype development, finalize its manufacturing and assembly process, and work towards a stronger, waterproof version of the bionic hand.

“There are other funding allotments [for things] such as patent filings, registrations, lab equipment, operating capital,” Saavedra said.

Alt-Bionics robotic hand prototype, courtesy image.
Alt-Bionics robotic hand prototype, courtesy image.

Longer term, Saavedra plans to expand the Alt-Bionics line of prosthetic devices to include partial hands, customized attachments, and devices for those needing one above the elbow while also aiming to enter the global artificial limbs market.

Alt-Bionics is expecting to release its first product in the next few months. Saavedra plans to work with the San Antonio-based Hanger Clinic, the largest prosthetic clinic in the nation, and is responding to queries from clinics across the U.S. The founder has also been responding to requests to trial prosthetics globally. Saavedra is working with Ukraine over the next few months to trial the devices for military and civilian use. 

“Our device is much needed — at about 65% less in cost than most bionic hands and arms. We can ensure everyone who needs one has access to advanced prosthetics.”

The featured image is of Alt-Bionics founder Ryan Saavedra working on a robotic hand prototype. Photo courtesy VelocityTX.


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