Medical Device Daily

For five years Dan Didrick has been mostly secluded in his home/work office.

As CEO of Didrick Medical (Naples, Florida) he says he has spent 15 hours a day, seven days a week laboring to create the X-Finger, a fully functional non-robotic prosthetic appendage — basically, a finger — with the total and realistic movement of a real finger.

It’s a feat most prosthetic companies have been striving to accomplish and Didrik feels it has been significantly successful.

Relatively new to the scene and without any major financings, the small private med-tech is making an impact with its prosthetics R&D that clearly points to improved quality of life — and lifting

“All of the substructure of the [X-Finger] is made of stainless steel,” Didrick, told Medical Device Daily from his Naples home. “The device works from the leverage of the remaining portion of the amputated finger. If the finger is completely missing, the device latches on to the next finger and mimics or mirrors that fingers actions.”

The raw components of the devise look like small Xs. The stubs of a person’s missing finger push against a lever in the prosthetic called a pan that curls the artificial knuckles. It is sturdy and isn’t easily broken, the company says.

Though not essentially fitting the term “bionic,” the finger at first glance looks like it came out of “Transformers,” this summer’s mega box office movie hit. Colored blue and silver, the finger is then covered by a plastic flesh-like sheathe to hide the mechanics and give it life-like reality.

It’s put on as easily as a glove. It can bend, point forward and even wag back and forth. It’s strong enough to support a cup of coffee and help to grip a golf club.

Didrick says he has plans to eventually develop finger prosthetics strong enough to handle even heavier lifting.

“We’re working with a soldier who said he wants to go back to doing pull ups,” Didrick said. “When I first started doing the designs for the X-Finger I couldn’t imagine the magnitude of where this project was going to take me. I’m now looking at replacing finger tips and entire fingers. The scope just keeps growing.”

Each X-Finger is designed on a case-by-case basis for each person. To qualify for the device prostheticians fax a copy of the patient’s hands to the facility. Didrick then does Conceptual Architectural Design of the finger, which can be purchased through the company.

The X-Finger received Class I device designation from the FDA about two years ago and has been CE-marked for more than a year.

To date several hundred X-Fingers have been designed for patients. Each finger is about $10,000, and GMA (Woodlands, California) manufactures the devices. Since 2003 Didrick Medical has been in partnership with the Department of Defense to provide the prosthetic to soldiers who have lost their appendages.

The device has garnered much attention. In May, it placed second in the Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge (New York), a contest for inventions sponsored by the History Channel and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

The increased attention has significantly increased demand, but the company said it doesn’t plan to look for any major financing or loans to keep up with the requests.

“We aren’t looking for any financing now,” Didrick said. “It wouldn’t make sense for us to have to pay back money when we’re at this point. Even if a bank said we want to lend you a million we wouldn’t take it.”

He said that discussions are ongoing with companies wishing to distribute the technology to more than 140 nations.

If such a deal goes through, Didrick could be eventually phased out and get what its founder says is some much needed rest.

“We keep working full-steam-ahead,” he said. “But we can see light at the end of the tunnel.”

There have been other forays into the world of prosthetics to allow for a greater degree of detailed motion

As one example, the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL; Laurel, Maryland) early last year reported development of a prototype of a prosthetic arm, called Proto 1 –– offers a level of control far beyond the current state-of-the-art (MDD, May 7, 2007). hopefully, ultimately commercialized by a medical device maker.

The Proto 1 prototype was developed in the first two-year phase of a four-year program called Revolutionizing Prosthetics. The work is being conducted at the non-profit APL through a contract with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA; Fort Detrick, Maryland).

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