Andy Hoffer

 Andy Hoffer holds the early Neurostep prototype. On the screen in the background is the current version.

SFU invention goes to market

April 2, 2009

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Kinesiologist Andy Hoffer’s Neurostep—a device that dramatically improves the walking gait of people with disabilities such as hemiplegia and footdrop—will soon be on the market in Europe.

The pacemaker-like device is implanted inside the thigh and uses nerve cuffs to sense and stimulate nerve activity in the paralyzed leg. It gives greater mobility to those suffering from neurological disabilities such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury or cerebral palsy.

In 1997, Hoffer created an SFU spin-off company, Neurostream Technologies, to commercialize the technology. Victhom Human Bionics bought the company in 2004 and recently obtained Europe’s CE Mark approval for the Neurostep™ System, the first approval of its kind for a closed-loop system (CLS) that uses signals sensed directly from peripheral nerves. With the approval, Victhom can now market the Neurostep in Europe and develop patient-training activities for hospitals and physicians.

Hoffer serves on Victhom’s Neurostep clinical and scientific advisory boards and remains active in Neurostep product development and clinical validation. He and his students in SFU’s Neurokinesiology Lab are now developing and testing (in pigs) a reversible, minimally invasive nerve stimulation electrode for "pacing" the human diaphragm muscle.

Their research, funded by an NSERC Idea-to-Innovation grant, could lead to a device that assists breathing and prevents diaphragm-muscle weakness or atrophy in critically ill patients who currently can only be kept alive with mechanical ventilation.


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