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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Alfred Mann And the Missing Link

When an acquaintance recently asked billionaire inventor Alfred Mann which project most excited him, David Hankin was surprised to hear the answer. It wasn’t Afrezza, the inhalable insulin in the pipeline at MannKind Corp. in Valencia. Nor was it the artificial eyeball in development at Second Sight Medical Products Inc., another Mann company in Sylmar. No, it was the implantable myoelectric sensor, a small device that allows an amputee’s brain to communicate with robotic limbs. “I was astounded at his response because he has some amazing products in his portfolio,” said Hankin, chief executive of the non-profit Alfred Mann Foundation in Valencia, which is developing the sensor. On Jan. 15, the foundation announced it had implanted sensors in a human for the first time. The recipient was James Sides, a Marine sergeant who lost his arm below the elbow in Afghanistan in 2012. The tiny sensors were implanted in residual muscles of the amputated arm, where they detect small contractions. These signals are wirelessly transmitted to a decoder box worn on the waist. The decoder interprets the signals and sends instructions to the prosthetic arm. Hankin said the foundation has an agreement with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland to implant the sensors in three veterans, with the second scheduled for surgery later this spring and the third recipient still unselected. The sensors cost about $500 each with each patient requiring six or more. In addition, the patient requires the robotic arm, power coils and the decoder. “All in all, you are looking at $10,000 to $20,000 to have this operate elegantly on an arm,” Hankin said. “I would expect, depending on the regulatory approvals we’ll need, it could be two to four years from now to reach the market.” – Joel Russell

Joel Russel
Joel Russel
Joel Russell joined the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2006 as a reporter. He transferred to sister publication San Fernando Valley Business Journal in 2012 as managing editor. Since he assumed the position of editor in 2015, the Business Journal has been recognized four times as the best small-circulation tabloid business publication in the country by the Alliance of Area Business Publishers. Previously, he worked as senior editor at Hispanic Business magazine and editor of Business Mexico.

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