Baltimore Start Up NextStep Robotics Awarded NIH $1 Million Cooperative Agreement to Bring its Stroke Recovery Device to Market.

NextStep Robotics, a University of Maryland, Baltimore start up tackling stroke rehabilitation, specifically foot drop, has been awarded Phase I of a Fast Track Cooperative Agreement application worth up to $5.4 million over four years by the National Institutes of Health.

Baltimore, MD (August 20, 2019) NextStep Robotics Inc., an early-stage company that has developed a personalized robotic therapy to help treat foot drop in recovering stroke patients, announces the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) has awarded the company Phase I of a Fast Track Cooperative Agreement to finalize the design of their new device. Once device finalization is complete and if all milestones are met by NextStep Robotics and approved by NIH the project will move onto Phase II of the agreement worth an additional $4.4M over four years. This support for NextStep comes from NIH/NINDS under award number U44NS111076. 

Phase I of this project is projected to last one year and at the end of this development stage they plan to begin a clinical trial for the device at the University of Maryland Baltimore Rehabilitation and Orthopaedics Institute for Phase II. The clinical trial will allow 120 stroke survivors with foot drop to try the new device that shows promise to durably reverse foot drop for the first time. The technologies’ early success in a small cohort showed promising results that allowed 85% of the subjects to either downgrade or discard their assistive devices including canes, walkers, and ankle foot orthotics (AFO).

The University System of Maryland recognized the great potential of the personalized robotic therapy developed by NextStep Robotics, Inc. Accordingly, NextStep was an early recipient of funding from the USM Maryland Momentum Fund. The USM is delighted that the company has received this substantial and prestigious funding from NIH,” said University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert L. Caret.

Led by Brad Hennessie, former University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) staff member turned entrepreneur, NextStep Robotics is based on intellectual property licensed from UMB; the robotic therapy has more than a decade of research behind it. It is the first effective treatment option for foot drop and helps stroke survivors and others regain mobility using clinically proven rehabilitation training. This treatment option serves a growing national need. With 5 million stroke survivors in the U.S. and 800,000 new strokes per year, this limit on mobility that inhibits people from lifting their toe while walking puts them at risk for falls and limits their ability to access their communities. Although the initial focus is on stroke patients, foot drop also afflicts people suffering from other disorders such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease, afflictions that are also increasing in incidence in the population.

NextStep Robotics gives clinics the ability to offer personalized robotics therapy through its adaptive software which provides an assist-as-needed approach. Worn by the patient, the easy-to-use robot is designed to be operated by any trained clinical staff, freeing up therapists with highly advanced training to provide hands-on treatment of patients’ other rehabilitation needs.

The robot’s unique training protocol is used to promote motor learning in just a few weeks. From a clinical standpoint, the robot serves as a training device, not an assistive device. One robot placed in a clinic can provide training to as many as 100 patients per year. Additionally, the device will be placed in clinics initially as an exercise device and the training protocol provides enough of an effect to elicit neuromotor reeducation in its users allowing higher reimbursement rates than the usual gait training or therapeutic exercise.

Since it was founded in the spring of 2017 NextStep has been housed in the Maryland Development Center, created by Dr. Gil Blankenship of University of Maryland, College Park and nine UMB clinicians to develop technologies that come out of Baltimore area universities and hospitals.


Media contact:
Bradley Hennessie
CEO, NextStep Robotics Inc.