UK deal a giant stride for exoskeleton maker

UK deal a giant stride for exoskeleton maker

Union MedTech, a UK company on the ICAP Securities and Derivatives Exchange (ISDX) Growth Market, a vehicle for small and medium sized companies to raise capital, plans to acquire Rex Bionics (RBL), the Kiwi developers of a robotic exoskeleton that allows paralysed people to stand and walk.

Union MedTech says in a statement that it plans to fund the launch of Rex 2, a rapidly adjustable exoskeleton designed for users in rehabilitation clinics, and to accelerate its international commercialisation. It also says it will continue to commercialise Rex 1, the first generation, customised exoskeleton for use in the home and workplace.

"The acquisition of Rex Bionics is an excellent opportunity for Union MedTech to provide its financial, operational and commercial capabilities and expertise to support a high quality, under-resourced company in realising its full potential and value as an innovative medical technology company," says Jeremy Curnock Cook, CEO of Union MedTech. "We have assessed multiple investment opportunities and were highly impressed by the RBL team and the calibre of the REX technology, a reflection of New Zealand’s entrepreneurial spirit and engineering expertise.

"In our view, Rex offers medical, psychosocial and functional benefits that could transform the lives of many wheelchair users around the world, combined with the potential to generate significant cost-savings for healthcare providers globally."

Rex Bionics was founded in 2003 by Auckland engineers Robert Irving and Richard Little. Little had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and both men's mothers used wheelchairs. It has the backing of Kiwi investment vehicle No. 8 Ventures.

According to the company's website it now has two manufacturing sites and a team of engineers and support staff. Union MedTech's statement says Rex Bionics' unaudited accounts for the year to 31 March 2013 show a net loss of $2.77 million on turnover of NZ$0.78 million.

Since May it has sold eight Rex 2 units to rehabilitation clinics and research hospitals in the US, Europe and Asia, Union MedTech says.

The agreement is subject to Union MedTech shareholder approval as it constitutes a reverse takeover under ISDX rules.

Union MedTech will withdraw its ISDX Growth Market listing and instead list with the AIM, the London Stock Exchange's market for smaller growth companies. It also has to raise more equity finance for the deal to go ahead.

Little and the team of robotics developers will stay with the company and Little is likely to join the board of Union MedTech. Union MedTech will change its name to Rex Bionics plc.