FDA's "Innovation Pathway" proposal débuts with military bionic arm project

February 8, 2011 by MassDevice staff

The Food & Drug Administration gives priority review to a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project aiming to create a robotic arm as the watchdog agency's first step on its "Innovation Pathway" proposal.

Food & Drug Administration

The Food & Drug Administration, aiming to blaze trail on a so-called "Innovation Pathway" designed to speed innovative medical technology to market, tapped a military project to create a prosthetic arm controlled by a brain-implanted microchip as its first speedy review candidate.

The federal watchdog agency granted priority review to a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project to create a "brain-controlled, upper-extremity prosthetic" as the pilot for its new program. The DARPA team is looking to "restore near-natural arm, hand and finger function to patients suffering from spinal cord injury, stroke or amputation," according to an FDA press release.

"The arm system uses a microchip implanted on the surface of the brain to record neuronal activity and decode the signals to actuate motor neurons that control the prosthesis," according to the release.

The Innovation Pathway, which is slated to undergo public review before more projects are selected, is the FDA's Center for Devices & Radiological Health's push to boost the development of "pioneering medical devices" that's "designed to encourage cutting-edge technologies among medical device manufacturers."

"Each year, millions of American patients benefit from innovative medical devices that reduce suffering and treat previously untreatable conditions," CDRH head Dr. Jeffrey Shuren said in prepared remarks. "CDRH's Innovation Initiative will help accelerate the development of and patient access to innovative medical devices, which often fulfill unmet public health needs."

The agency is also looking to shore up the infrastructure behind the development of breakthrough technologies. Proposed actions for the program include:

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