AlterG getting more press

AlterG, a company in the Red Planet Capital portfolio and the company where I am a half-time CFO, got some excellent coverage in the December 7 edition of the San Jose Mercury News.  See it all here.

Anti-gravity treadmill: Therapy that’s like a walk on the moon

By Pete Carey

pcarey@mercurynews.com

A treadmill developed at NASA Ames Research Center more than a decade ago for exercising in space has seen more athletes than astronauts lately.

AlterG, a Fremont startup, has sold more than 200 of the “anti-gravity” physical therapy and training treadmills, which are based on the NASA prototype, at $75,000 each. The buyers have mainly been sports teams, college athletic departments and hospitals, but the maker hopes to eventually push prices down to where individuals could own one.

A new model, the M300, costs $24,500 and is starting to be acquired by physical therapy clinics and nursing homes, where they are used for exercise without the risk of falling.

The company foresees an expanding base of users. “We do believe that eventually you’ll see the product being used in people’s homes,” said AlterG CEO Lars Barfod.

The AlterG, the only machine of its kind on the market, is an exercise treadmill with a waist-high enclosure added on. Zip yourself in and, by inflating the enclosure, you can reduce the force of gravity on your legs from a few percent to 80 percent, which approximates what it would be like to walk or run on the moon.

Air pressure elevates the user’s body, counteracting the force of gravity. Athletes use it to continue training after an injury, reducing the impact of running on injured muscles and tendons. It can also be used for low-impact training, especially useful for runners.

The Oakland Raiders football team has one; the Golden State Warriors basketball team has two, the University of California-Berkeley has several and Stanford University has one. The University of California-San Francisco Medical Center has two at its Mission Bay campus, Walter Reed Army Medical Center has two, and the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs hospital has one. The military uses them to help vets learn to walk with prosthetics and relearn balance caused from traumatic brain injury, Barfod said.

Marathon runner Alberto Salazar, director of the Nike Oregon Project, a group created by the shoe company to promote long-distance running, was an early convert. After checking out a prototype several years ago. Salazar has purchased five for the Nike project for the runners he trains, helping the fledgling startup get off the ground.

“I think it’s the best piece of equipment made for running in last 30 years, the most revolutionary piece of equipment, without a doubt,” Salazar said.

Scott Touchet, a Raiders assistant athletic trainer, said the team mainly uses it so players can exercise while recovering from lower limb injuries and surgeries. “Our guys love it,” he said.

The AlterG’s forerunner was developed in the early 1990s at NASA/Ames by researcher Robert Whalen and a colleague, Dr. Alan Hargens, as a space-born exercise machine and also to study the effects of weightlessness on humans. The original machines sucked air out of the chamber, creating a kind of artificial gravity. Later versions pump air in, countering gravity.

Whalen, who holds the original 1992 patent and who continues to be involved in the company, declined a request for an interview.

What it is:
A treadmill with a pneumatic “un-weighting” device
Who uses it: Sports teams, hospitals, physical therapists, nursing homes, military
Why: Helps with physical therapy, rehabbing and conditioning.
How it works: Air pressure counteracts body weight during exercise, allowing users to run and walk without impact or pain.
Cost: $24,500
Who makes it: AlterG, a Fremont company


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5 responses to “AlterG getting more press”

  1. Woodrow says :

    Too bad AlterG can’t prove any of the medical benefits they claim. On their web site the “clinical research” are case studies from Physical Therapists. Not MD’s, not IRB certified studies. Wild claims and anecdotal evidence do not science make.

  2. TechStock2000 says :

    You seem to have an axe to grind, Woodrow. But I welcome your point of view.

    Unlike you, I would expect the researchers for a Physical Therapy device to be Physical Therapists.

    The FDA doesn’t clear just anything, and the AlterG is FDA cleared for sale as a Class 1 medical device.

    I find customers that love a product to be quite compelling. Here is one from just yesterday: http://jessicafewless.blogspot.com/

  3. Woodrow says :

    No axe. They’ve been around since 2005 and no real science. They are claiming medical benefits and with nothing but the anecdotal evidence of customers, that’s dangerous. Let me quote a couple from their own web site

    1. Neuromuscular and proprioceptive re-training. Do you want a customer or science backing that up?
    2. Lowers the risk of falling. Really? Any studies to support that claim?
    3. Improves neuromuscular control and activity and promotes brain plasticity. I don’t see any studies on this claim either. I imagine something like brain probes or autopsies have to be done to prove that, no?

    Lastly, do you want a PT proving those things? Or an MD doing real clinical research? Alter-G should prove their claims or stop making them.

    • techstock2000 says :

      Your assumption is that if no studies are listed on the web site, no studies exist. That is probably a reasonable assumption, but an incorrect one. Thanks for bringing it up – I’ll mention to the people that run the AlterG web site that they should provide links to the published studies and update as the in-process studies are published.

  4. Woodrow says :

    Interesting the company changed the web site from “clinical research” to “clinical support”. Was that your doing?

    Did you see Ritz’s comments…12/20/09

    “Behind the couch, steps away from a large window, a stationary bike waits for the injured. Next to it is a brand new AlterG…and it’s broken. Has been ever since the fall. A repairman from the company made a home visit and decried that it worked just fine. Except that it doesn’t, which is a pain because the alternative is to use the old AlterG in the basement garage.”

    Seems there are lots of questions around the company and the product….

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