Axilum Robotics: Treating Major Depression And Neuropathic Pain

Axilum Robotics is a spin-off from a research unit at the University of Strasbourg. The company has designed the first robot for treating major depression and neuropathic pain by transcranial magnetic stimulation

Axilum Robotics is a spin-off from the Strasbourg-based medical robotics research group ICube. The company was founded in 2011 by Michel de Mathelin, Bernard Bayle and Pierre Renaud along with 2 PhDs in medical robotics – Benjamin Maurin and Romuald Ginhoux  – and also Michel Berg, a medical doctor and graduate of HEC business school. It is developing and marketing the world’s first robot for transcranial magnetic stimulation(TMS), based on a proof of concept developed by ICube.

What is TMS ?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a functional treatment for depression, which acts directly on the functions of the tissues producing neurotransmitters and encourages their natural secretions. Neuroimaging has shown depression is associated with areas of hyperactivity and hyperactivity. TMS relieves the symptoms and restores normal activity within the affected areas.

There are several protocols for TMS, some of which are applied to activate the affected areas and vice versa.

The protocols are determined by the doctor, clinical observation and also by specific psychological tests.

TMS has the added benefit of being non-invasive, with few or no side effects and is very well tolerated by patients.

Samuel Bulteau, a psychiatrist at the Nantes University hospital estimates that “only 1 to 3% of patients stop the treatment prematurely, as opposed to 30 to 40% for drug-based treatments.” TMS therefore offers a welcome option for healthcare professionals treating patients with depression resistant to antidepressant therapy and is an interesting alternative to electroconvulsive therapy, formerly known as electroshock therapy, which is highly effective but requires a general anaesthetic.


TMS applications:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Stress post-traumatic depression
  • Addictions
  • Eating disorders
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Tinnitus
  • Chronic pain

Axilum Robotics estimates that some 4 million people in France suffer from chronic neuropathic pain, while a further 6 million have a depressive disorder. Drug therapies have proved ineffective for a large number of these patients and TMS offers them a genuine, non-invasive alternative. This easy-to-use therapy can also be applied to treat the sequels of strokes, which affect some 150,000 people every year.

An application which is steadily becoming part of public healthcare

Michel Berg, CEO of Axilum Robotics gives his vision of the future: “TMS treatment has been covered by health insurance in the United States since 2012 and in Germany since 2014. France is a little behind, but the situation is improving, especially in Strasbourg, where a research team led by Professor Foucher, who came up with the idea of Axilum Robotics, is supporting the change process. The technological risk phase is now behind us and we are focusing on expansion of the market, productivity, a higher level of reimbursement and the quality of the therapy provided by the robot.”

The robot is already in use in France, Spain, Denmark and Brazil and is soon to be introduced in Canada. A robot is also to be included within a treatment unit in Strasbourg’s civil hospital, to be opened in June.

Berg adds that “This is the first time an outpatient unit will be covered by health insurance for the treatment of depression and pain.”

Axilum Robotics recorded net sales of €700,000 in 2015, based solely on exports, and hopes to top the 1 million mark this year. After fund-raising rounds in 2012 and 2015, the company is working to raise €500,000 in new funding this year to finance the extension of its range and also to make the first inroads into the potentially-profitable American market.

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