LOUISVILLE Colorado- Tensegrity Prosthetics Inc. in Louisville has received a two-year $750,000 grant to continue the redesign and manufacture of prototypes of a flexible prosthetic foot.

Jerome Rifkin, founder of Tensegrity Prosthetics, said he will receive $415,000 of the Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health the first year.

He plans to spend the money on finishing the redesign of the prosthetic foot and then create small and large batches of prototypes for testing.

"I hope to be able to stabilize the product, increasing the efficiency and decreasing the number of falls incurred by amputees using current prototypes," he said. The prosthetic foot mimics the biomechanics of the human foot. Tests show it requires less energy to use, and amputees testing the beta version report more comfort and agility when walking.

The prosthetic is made of titanium, aircraft aluminum and steel-fiber rope. It bends like the normal foot and ankle, conforming to the terrain under foot, while providing a sense of being well-connected to the ground.

In 2005, Rifkin received a two-year, $200,000 SBIR grant from the NIH for research and has raised another $150,000 in venture backing.

He has received positive feedback from amputees who have participated in clinical tests of earlier prototypes, but the prosthetic's durability is still the challenge.

"Before I can begin manufacturing these, they need to be able to last for at least two years," he told the Boulder County Business Report in August. The durability problem is caused mainly because the prosthetic (foot) is so flexible, the very attribute that makes it appealing to amputees.

Rifkin received an IQ Award in August from the Business Report for his innovation.