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[Korean Startup Interview] HUCASYSTEM: Revolutionizing Rehab Robotics, Expanding Global Reach

2024-01-22 6 min read


[Korean Startup Interview] HUCASYSTEM: Revolutionizing Rehab Robotics, Expanding Global Reach

Reading Time: 6 minutes

HUCASYSTEM, a South Korean company, derives its name from ‘HUman CAre’ and is at the forefront of developing innovative rehabilitation robot systems for individuals disabled due to diseases or accidents. The company’s mission is to provide effective rehabilitation solutions, transcending the limitations of existing rehabilitation robots, for the over 600 million patients globally requiring such care.

Traditional rehabilitation robots are primarily designed for walking exercises, often operating automatically without requiring patient effort. This design approach has limitations in enhancing patients’ muscle strength or accelerating their rehabilitation process. In response, HUCASYSTEM has developed ‘HUCA-Go,’ a versatile robot system offering automatic, assisted, and manual walking modes, adaptable to each patient’s specific needs. This innovation encourages active patient participation in their rehabilitation journey. Additionally, the integration of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies offers patients a more immersive and realistic rehabilitation experience.

HUCASYSTEM’s competitive edge lies in its technological superiority combined with cost efficiency. Unlike existing European rehabilitation robots priced in the hundreds of millions of won, HUCASYSTEM’s products are over 50% more affordable while still providing a range of functionalities, including comprehensive lower limb rehabilitation. ‘HUCA-Go,’ in particular, has gained significant attention for its custom rehabilitation treatments tailored for various brain disease patients.

With the global rehabilitation robot market projected to reach KRW 2.4 trillion by 2024, HUCA has been actively developing markets domestically and internationally, targeting hospitals and rehabilitation centers. The company is now striving to broaden its reach globally. It has already received FDA approval in the USA and is undergoing CE MDR certification. In the past year, HUCA has achieved significant milestones, including signing distributor contracts and MOUs with entities in Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore.

HUCA’s business model extends beyond merely serving patients in hospitals and rehabilitation centers. The company aims to offer a full spectrum of walking rehabilitation products and services catering to patients from acute to chronic stages of disability. In the long term, HUCA is developing ‘HUCAVERSE,’ a remote rehabilitation platform that facilitates home-based rehabilitation exercises for patients with milder conditions, monitored and guided in cooperation with medical institutions.

Since its inception in 2019, HUCASYSTEM has garnered notable recognition, including FDA approval in the USA and winning the ‘CES 2024’ Innovation Award. Engaging in overseas Proof of Concept (PoC) support projects with KISED (Korea Institute of Startup & Entrepreneurship Development) and BigBang Angels, the company has expanded its global presence, creating opportunities to connect with various international companies and distributors. HUCASYSTEM’s innovative approach and global expansion are poised to revolutionize the field of rehabilitation therapy, offering new hope to the countless individuals aspiring for rehabilitation.

What problem is HUCASYSTEM solving?

HUCA, an acronym for HUman CAre Robot System, is a company dedicated to assisting patients who have become physically disabled due to diseases, accidents, or strokes. Our research indicates that approximately 660 million people worldwide suffer from conditions like strokes, cardiovascular diseases, Parkinson’s disease, and developmental disorders, with about 5 million new stroke-related disabilities occurring annually. These individuals represent a substantial demographic for rehabilitation therapy.

HUCA utilizes robotics in rehabilitation, addressing the limitations of existing rehabilitation robots. Traditional robots are equipped with platforms and joint supports for walking exercises, powered by motors that function automatically, often without requiring patient effort. This design can hinder the improvement of muscle strength and the speed of rehabilitation recovery. HUCASYSTEM was established to innovate in this field, creating a detailed and effective rehabilitation system that addresses these issues.

How Does HUCASYSTEM Solve This Problem?

HUCASYSTEM is driving innovation by developing a robotic system that, unlike conventional rehabilitation robots, is primarily manual but can smoothly adjust to various modes such as automatic walking, walking assistance, and manual walking, depending on the patient’s condition. This approach enables patients to actively participate in their exercises, thereby accelerating their rehabilitation process. Additionally, by integrating monitor displays, Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR) into the system, HUCASYSTEM significantly enhances rehabilitation outcomes by providing a more realistic walking experience for patients.

What Makes HUCA Competitive?

HUCA’s robots are distinguished by their ability to provide comprehensive rehabilitation effects for the entire body, including complex lower limb functionalities. These devices support automatic, assisted, and manual walking within a single unit and offer features to adjust rehabilitation variables based on the patient’s bilateral balance ability. A major competitive advantage of HUCA is its cost-effectiveness; its products are more than 50% cheaper than similar products from European competitors, which are priced between KRW 300 to 400 million each.

What Are HUCA’s Products or Services?

Currently, HUCA operates ‘HUCA-Go,’ a multifunctional complex walking rehabilitation robot system. HUCA-Go is a versatile medical device designed for patients with motor disorders due to degenerative brain diseases (like stroke, Parkinson’s disease, ataxia, dementia) and spinal cord injury-induced paraplegia.

Who Is HUCA’s Target Market and Core Customer Base?

As previously mentioned, there are approximately 600 to 700 million individuals worldwide who are potential rehabilitation trainees. The global rehabilitation robot market is projected to reach KRW 2.4 trillion by 2024. HUCA’s initial strategy is to penetrate the domestic market, targeting hospitals and rehabilitation centers based on the performance and pricing of its products, followed by an expansion into the global market.

What Is HUCA’s Business Model?

Our business model is to provide a full range of walking rehabilitation products and services for patients across all stages of disability, from acute to chronic. We sell our walking rehabilitation robot system, HUCA-Go, to hospitals and rehabilitation centers. We also plan to lease the GTR-T robot, which focuses on motor functions, for home use. This is part of a long-term strategy for a remote rehabilitation exercise platform, which we have envisioned with ‘HUCAVERSE,’ an online system.

When leased for home use, the GTR-T robot will allow medical institutions to remotely monitor and guide patients’ posture and exercise conditions. Our plan also includes providing services for those needing mild rehabilitation, facilitated through data exchange like heart rate and walking motion measurements.

What Are the HUCA Team’s Achievements?

Since our incorporation in 2019, we promptly received venture company certification. In 2021, we completed medical device licensing, procurement product registration, and FDA approval in the USA. In 2022, we set up a mass production line and supplied our products to notable hospitals like Chungnam National University Hospital and Pusan National University Yangsan Hospital.

HUCA-Go completed its FDA registration in 2022 and won the ‘CES 2024’ Innovation Award in November last year. In January 2024, we established an independent booth at ‘CES 2024’ to exhibit HUCA-Go, further accelerating our efforts in the international market.

What Is the Competitive Edge of the HUCA Team?

Our team’s core competitiveness lies in our diverse and optimized members, each bringing expertise from various fields and a relentless spirit of challenge. CEO Kim Hyung-sik, who completed his master’s and doctorate at SEOUL NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, founded HUCASYSTEM while working as a researcher at the National Rehabilitation Center, where he dedicated himself to developing better rehabilitation systems for numerous patients. CTO Kim Jeong-jun, an expert in robotics, along with other team members specialized in robotics, mechanical engineering, computer science, and accounting, are passionately driving product enhancement and global expansion.

Three Reasons Why We Need Investment

Firstly, following our seed investment, this Series A funding will enable us to contract with companies specializing in medical device sales and marketing and hire the necessary staff for marketing and promotion. In the short term, we plan to rent additional space in our current building for raw materials and finished product storage. In the long term, we intend to purchase industrial land near our headquarters for office expansion. This investment is expected to drive significant growth:

Securing profitability from obtaining medical device grade 3 licenses covered by national medical insurance.

Anticipating explosive sales growth with CE MDR certification for expansion into European, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian markets.

Aiming to pioneer the global market with the development of our full-cycle rehabilitation service platform.

HUCA’s Efforts and Achievements in International Expansion

We have acquired or are in the process of obtaining various licenses essential for international expansion. We have already completed registration with the U.S. FDA Class 1~2 and are currently undergoing CE MDR certification. Concurrently, we are actively participating in overseas expansion support projects by organizations like KOTRA, KHIDI (Korea Health Industry Development Institute), and KISED.

In May 2023, we signed a distributor contract with MEDICAL VIETNAM in Vietnam. In September, we visited Burapha University in Thailand to discuss and plan an MOU signing. We have also signed an MOU with Fourier in Singapore.

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