Brain-controlled robot arm kicks off new FDA program to speed up approval of medical devices


As we’ve seen, the FDA approval process for medical devices and other gadgets can be a long one, but it looks like things could soon be speeding up considerably. The agency has just announced a new “Innovation Pathway” program that promises to allow for priority reviews of “truly pioneering technologies,” which could potentially cut the approval process time in half. Somewhat ironically, however, that program itself will first need some further review before it’s broadly deployed, but the FDA has already kicked things off on a limited basis with its first submission: a brain-controlled robotic arm from DARPA. It’s not clear which arm that is, but it sounds a lot like the now-famous “Luke” arm developed by Dean Kamen’s Deka organization, which just so happens to be funded by DARPA. Head on past the break for the official press release, and a video of the FDA’s webcast announcing the program.

Update: A tipster has pointed out that the robotic arm in question, and seen briefly in the video after the break, is actually the Modular Prosthetic Limb developed by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (now pictured above), not Deka’s Luke arm.

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