There’s been plenty of excitement on the robotic exoskeleton front in recent years. For the most part, these devices slot into two categories: 1) workplace assistance and 2) mobility assistance. The first is designed specifically for workers who have to stand for long periods and hold heavy equipment — a little extra boost can go a long way. The second can go a ways toward helping people with all sorts of mobility issues.
Soft exoskeletons have been a growing part of the latter category. You’re invariably going to lose some of the strength you’ll find with rigid assistive systems, but building this sort of functionality into garments makes for a much more comfortable setup than big, heavy devices. Earlier this year, Bay Area-based Cionic received FDA approval for its own offering, the Neural Sleeve.
The system was designed to help increase mobility for people living with a variety of conditions, includes strokes, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. Founder and CEO Jeremiah Robison cites his own daughter’s struggles with cerebral palsy as the inspiration behind the startup’s 2018 founding. The Neural Sleeve is controlled by a connected smartphone, allowing wearers the ability to augment their own movements with a little electronic support.
The company describes its technology thusly:
Cionic builds bionic clothing that can analyze and augment human movement, enabling the body to move with more freedom and control than with crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs. Cionic thoughtfully combines the diagnostic power of a gait lab with the therapeutic power of Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) into a lightweight, durable garment that can be worn anywhere and work everywhere.
This morning, Cionic announced a $12.5 million Series A. The round, led by BlueRun Ventures, and featuring Caffeinated Capital, EPIC Ventures, JobsOhio Growth Capital Fund and LDV Capital, brings its total raise to $23 million, all told.
“The clinical trials CIONIC completed in Ohio helped secure FDA clearance, demonstrating that this is an innovative company with the potential to significantly improve the lives of more than 35 million Americans currently struggling with mobility differences,” investor J.P. Nauseef of JobsOhio says in a comment provided to TechCrunch. “With Ohio talent supporting clinical learnings, we are optimistic that CIONIC’s Neural Sleeve will continue to positively impact the lives of individuals with movement challenges.”
The new funding will go, in part, to accelerating the manufacturing and delivery of the Neural Sleeve.