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In conversation with Praxis SCI Incubate Cohort Member, NovaSense

Preventing Pressure Injuries with NovaSense

NovaSense is a Vancouver, BC-based company that has designed a sensing technology to combat pressure injuries. Not only is the technology capable of continuous and accurate pressure monitoring over prolonged periods, but it also remains soft, flexible, stretchable and durable. NovaSense evolved out of a research project, SomaSense, at The University of British Columbia led by founder Justin Wyss. Secondary complications from pressure injuries come with high human and financial costs and may even prove fatal.  To avoid development of pressure injury, the team at NovaSense created a product that allows for the real time monitoring of forces physically acting on a person with a spinal cord injury (SCI). The data collected is transmitted wirelessly to smart devices that allow both historical and real time monitoring by individuals and clinicians.

What led you to a career focused on medical technology and, in particular, medical technology for people living with SCI?

Coming from a family of engineers, I was always trying to solve complex problems to revolutionize the way we live. I worked with sensors during my undergrad (Bachelor of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering). Once I entered my Masters program, I began learning about SCI and secondary complications. It was here I started to wonder, “How can I bring this technology, originally made for flexible touch screens like tablets, to apply to pressure injuries?”

While participating in the UBC School of Biomedical Engineering program, Engineers in Scrubs, I was able to shadow clinicians and speak to individuals with lived experience. The biggest impact while shadowing was speaking directly to individuals with pressure injuries and their families; the pain they carried resonated so strongly with me and I wanted to find a way to make their lives better.

I am currently finishing my PhD in Biomedical Engineering and am focused on bringing this technology to the market.

What was your biggest takeaway from the Praxis SCI Incubate Program?

The Praxis SCI Incubate program helped us identify where our company needed to develop in order for our product to enter the market. Our team had sufficient understanding of the research aspect of our technology, but lacked the experience to understand how our Smart Sheet would be adapted by the consumers and companies currently in the market. Praxis helped us develop our pathway to market and identify the changes within our company needed to move forward on our commercialization path.

What were the biggest changes to your company’s structure or business strategy arising out of the program?

We found that the greatest benefit from the SCI Incubate program was how it shifted our primarily research-focused mindset into developing a business strategy for faster market access.

The program mentors highlighted the diametrically opposed business opportunities for future market access— on one side, the licensing of our intellectual property, and on the opposite, the manufacturing and distribution of our proprietary product.

The Praxis SCI Incubate Program also allowed for greater contact with the SCI community, gathering data on community priorities and identifying its needs for a pressure-sensing product. In particular, the focus groups identified remote monitoring of dangerous high-pressure points as a priority. We were able to identify a target market for our Smart Sheet and redesigned our product to meet the needs of our prospective users. We have begun exploring the development of different formats to fill the multiple market niches identified through the SCI Incubate focus groups. Understanding how pressure injuries affect everyone differently and how not all individuals with SCI need or want this product, has really helped us define our market.

How did the program change how you viewed challenges faced by your customers?

The knowledge transfer from people with SCI during our weekly meetings with the Praxis SCI consumers and focus groups were invaluable. Integrating their perspectives in our product development opened our eyes to the wide spectrum of challenges faced by people living with SCI. This translated to the multitude of ways that SCI consumers might use NovaSense products, highlighting how broadly Smart Sheet technology could be valued by end-consumers.

Did your perspective change on how your customers would use your product?

We have shifted our market access plan from a subscription model to one that fits more in alignment with health care reimbursement plans. This allows greater market penetration and increased availability for people with SCI. The company has focused on a direct-to-consumer market entry to reflect the widespread appeal identified in the Praxis SCI consumer focus groups.

Company Successes Due to the SCI Incubate program:

  • Venture incorporated as a BC-based company.
  • Expanded accessibility of pressure-sensing mats to people with SCI
  • Trademark applications filed (Canada & United States)
  • Commenced their regulatory approval process with Health Canada.

What did you get out of the SCI Incubate program?

NovaSense’s biggest hope going into the program was that we would be able to increase our knowledge in business and entrepreneurship in order to take the technology to the next level; SCI Incubate more than delivered. Thanks to the Praxis SCI Incubate program, the NovaSense team has reached the next stage of company development; we’ve incorporated the business, conducted outreach for regulatory approval processes, and, most recently, applied for our trademark. Thanks to Praxis SCI Incubate, we are closer than ever to reaching our goal of getting our product to market.

Learn more about the 2021-2022 Praxis SCI Incubate Alum!