On Jan. 29, ReWalk Robotics announced a rebrand to “Lifeward.” The rebrand had, in many ways, been in the works for about six months.
Really, though, Lifeward CEO Larry Jasinski started formulating this plan a few years ago. All it needed was a few key ingredients to propel the physical rehabilitation and recovery company forward.
ReWalk’s offerings include the ReWalk Personal Exoskeleton, ReStore Exo-Suit and MyoCycle FES systems. The exoskeleton is the company’s robotic offering to enable mobility and wellness in rehabilitation and daily life for individuals with neurological conditions.
Jasinski said the company took an aggressive approach to funding during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. In February 2020, it raised $7 million, followed by $9 million in July 2020. The company then added a sizeable $40 million sum to its coffers in February 2021.
Another ingredient was M&A. Jasinski has more plans for strategic buys, but the company made a splash when it acquired AlterG in August. AlterG provides anti-gravity systems for use in physical and neurological rehabilitation. The transaction adds its current and future product lines to ReWalk’s existing portfolio of neurorehabilitation products.
Finally, Lifeward was looking for a reimbursement win and, with a few final pieces still left to be sorted, CMS finalized a rule benefitting its exoskeleton technology in November.
“I call it a multi-year path,” Jasinski told MassDevice in a recent interview. “But, the actions that really enabled it were money at the beginning of COVID, CMS finally reacting and hiring and being able to recruit a team at a much higher level than before. Then came the first of the acquisitions and I hope there’ll be some others along the way.”
How the AlterG acquisition changed thingsWith funding in hand from the previous few years, Lifeward paid $19 million to buy AlterG. It made the deal with eyes on expanding its customer-facing capabilities and advancing future growth opportunities. With the acquisition announced in August, as of Jan. 1, the field teams are completely integrated.
AlterG’s anti-gravity systems use patented, NASA-derived differential air pressure technology. They reduce the effects of gravity, allowing people to move in new ways with finely calibrated support and reduced pain. AlterG designed its technology to enable users to recover mobility, improve wellness and enhance physical performance.
Jasinski highlighted the therapy’s popularity in professional sports for rehabilitating from injuries. It’s primarily for rehab for people who need to offset some weight so they can get better quicker or perform tasks they couldn’t without the ability to offset that weight.
AlterG brings three products to the table with strong penetration across clinics where Lifeward looks to operate, he said.
“It fits very specifically because it’s primarily done in the clinic,” Jasinski said. “For ReWalk, all of our users start in the clinic. … We will start all of our ReWalk patients in that clinic. When we go into the clinic, we have AlterG in 2,500 centers in the U.S., 600 spinal cord injury centers, so they already have those relationships and that physical presence.”
With a larger sales force in place now, Lifeward has more touchpoints, Jasinski said. As it adds product lines, the company can offer multiple solutions for people who “want to get home.” Like a prosthetic, the ReWalk Personal Exoskeleton can be taken home and used at whatever frequency preferred by the patient. It all starts in the clinic, then AlterG completes the process in a way.
“We needed this circle, this loop, to work,” he said. “We’ll continue to fill out more products in that structure. For the operating structure, it’s a much more efficient way to pay for the infrastructure you need to properly sell, service, train and get reimbursement on these products.”
‘Do or die’ CMS coverageCMS’ changing of the rule benefitting offerings like the ReWalk Personal Exoskeleton technology expedites coverage and payment for newer technology and powered devices. This potentially enables faster access to the newer technologies, like those made by ReWalk, and Myomo as well.
In the rule, CMS says the exoskeleton changes can expedite coverage and payment for newer technology and powered devices. Particularly, it could help those with disabilities associated with muscular and/or neural conditions. The rule finalizes a clear coverage pathway reimbursed by Medicare on a lump-sum basis.
“The CMS piece was a do or die for the industry. It was that big,” Jasinski said. “If that didn’t happen, we probably wouldn’t have done the [AlterG] acquisition and wouldn’t move forward.”
The company should know more in the next week or so in terms of the final pricing as well, but Jasinski expects only positives from here.
He says coverage means a higher likelihood of getting doctors to write prescriptions for Lifeward technology. It should help build the business and create a new, sizeable market, too, he said.
“My problem hasn’t been the number of patients knocking on the door,” Jasinski said. “I just had nowhere to take them.”
Lifeward already put in 20 claims at the end of last year and plans to continue as it nears the final pricing.
“[CMS coverage] couldn’t have been a bigger event for the company,” he said. “We’ll try to turn the engine on more after April 1 when we have a final price. But, we can do what we set out to do. That’s why it’s so big.”