International + Canadian Startups In The Spotlight For SCI-Focused Innovations
Innovative health technologies were in the spotlight at an investor event held in Vancouver, BC earlier this week. Hosted by RBC in partnership with the Rick Hansen Institute (now Praxis Spinal Cord Institute), eight shortlisted international and Canadian startups that develop spinal cord injury products showcased their businesses to a panel of corporate and scientific experts.
The winning company, Braze Mobility, was awarded first prize to support the continued development of their wheelchair sensor technology. Israeli start-up iCough and exoskeleton developer Human in Motion Robotics received honorary awards for their presentations.
For any technology-based research innovation, the barriers to commercialization are numerous. When it comes to innovations that directly benefit people with spinal cord injury (SCI), it’s even more difficult to bring those innovations to market because of a smaller patient population for conducting clinical trials, access to funding and a myriad of other challenges. However, there is a clear unmet need. Events such as this investor series emphasize the importance of supporting healthcare businesses who develop products to improve the quality of life of the 86,000 people living with SCI in Canada today.
Their collective reach also has applications to a vast array of other health conditions and chronic diseases, making these technologies relevant to millions of people in Canada and around the world.
“RBC is proud to work with the Rick Hansen Institute to support and showcase innovative healthcare entrepreneurs and the important role they play in helping individuals people thrive and communities prosper,” said Martin Thibodeau, Regional President, British Columbia, RBC Royal Bank. “As a purpose driven company, creating a positive social impact is integral to how we do business. By enabling startups to commercialize their innovative ideas, we can create an environment where new businesses and startups can continue to can succeed in helping to make lives better for people in Canada and around the world.”
“The Rick Hansen Institute has a unique role in the SCI continuum in that not only do we help to identity and accelerate the most promising technologies relevant to people with SCI, but we also connect these research innovators with the resources and supports necessary to make their technologies available to those who need them most,” said Bill Barrable, CEO of the Rick Hansen Institute (now Praxis Spinal Cord Institute). “Individuals with spinal cord injury are a vastly underserved population when it comes to access to technologies that will improve their lives, but the cost-benefit ratio is enormous. We’re grateful to RBC for hosting an event that showcases the incredible work being done in this field while at the same time exposing these promising startups to new opportunities that will help them accelerate the commercialization of their technologies.”
Speaking about winning first prize, Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, co-founder and CEO of Braze Mobility, said,
“This award will help us to gain valuable connections to advisors and investors who are passionate about solving problems faced by those with spinal cord injury. We hope to be back in Vancouver soon to nurture the relationships we have created here.”
PICTURED: Winners at the Investor Event (L-R): Dr. Pooja Viswanathan (Braze Mobility), Chloe Angus (Human in Motion Robotics), Dan Orbach (iCough); John Chernesky (Praxis Spinal Cord Institute Institute, Event MC)
Meet the Startups:
- Braze Mobility has built the first low-cost, after-market blind spot sensor system that can be installed on any wheelchair or scooter. This system provides multi-modal feedback to the driver regarding the location and proximity of obstacles, therefore increasing safe and independent mobility, especially for those who are denied the use of powered mobility devices because of safety concerns.
- iCough is a portable, patient-operated cough-assist and pulmonary drug delivery for individuals with SCI or neuromuscular deficiencies. The iCough hyperinflates lungs to expand capacity to increase respiratory muscle strength and endurance, allowing for optimal drug delivery. iCough an Israeli-based company arising out of RHI’s Biodesign partnership with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
- Human in Motion Robotics produces a wearable exoskeleton that can produce all the ranges of motion required for walking with a normal gait and more complex movements such as turning, walking on a slope, climbing stairs and self-balancing, making it one of the most advanced exoskeletons in the world.
- UFREE is a Patient-Controlled Bladder Management System enabling disabled patients to urinate almost naturally. It also minimizes the risk of infection, reduces complication rate, needs replacements only once a month (as opposed to several times a day for a typical catheter) and hugely increases quality of life. The first product of the Near Natural (TM) Concept, UFREE is an Israeli-based venture arising out of RHI’s Biodesign partnership with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
- 4M Biotech is the developer of the GelDerm Smart Bandage, a patent-pending, pH-sensitive bandage that detects and changes colour in the presence of bacteria using sensor technology. Once an infection has been identified, the bandage releases timed antibiotic treatment.
- Range Wellness is developing a physiotherapy product that bridges the gap between assessment and treatment. Their goal is to foster an ongoing, meaningful relationship between the patient and therapist while improving treatment and making physiotherapy more accessible. By using a range of sensors, Range Wellness can calculate range of motion down to a tenth of a degree and can display the range in real time.
- Careteam Technologies is a digital health platform which has created the next generation Patient-Centered Collaboration (PCC) platform. Sold to healthcare organizations as a SaaS license, it enables them to offer coordination and navigation for patients with complex, chronic diseases across different health conditions and contexts (hospital, clinic, community and home), reducing the fragmentation of care.
- Biointeractive Technologies, backed by the Mayo Clinic and Techstars, is developing a digital (orthopaedic) health solution called TENZR. TENZR aims to facilitate recovery from hand, wrist and forearm injuries like wrist fractures, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, and eventually to prevent some of these injuries from occurring in the first place. TENZR, comprising a smart wristband and mobile app, provides objective data and guidance on wrist, hand and forearm use and the quality/quantity of rehabilitation exercises, in order to remove the guesswork that exists in hand therapy today.
Meet the Panel of Experts:
- Garth Smith, PhD, VP of Business Development & Partnerships, Ontario Brain Institute. With an academic and professional background in neurosciences and drug development, Dr. Smith manages OBI’s commercialization efforts and its relationships with Ontario neurotechnology companies and multinationals such as GSK, GE, Medtronic, Pfizer and Eli Lilly.
- Michael Bidu, Founder and CEO, INTERFACE Health Society. Mr. Bidu is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, advisor, judge, speaker and award-winning marketer. His company, INTERFACE Health is Canada’s top virtual global digital health accelerator based in Vancouver, BC.
- Bruce Schmidt, Winery Owner, Technology Consultant. Mr. Schmidt operates a private consulting practice in Vancouver focused on technology and development within the life sciences sector. He is one of the founding directors of Genome BC, has founded two biotechnology companies and has served as a board member on numerous life sciences and venture organizations.
- Nancy Thorogood, Research Associate, Praxis Spinal Cord Institute. Dr. Thorogood specializes in translational research and currently oversees the projects within Praxis’ Cure Program including neuro-restorative therapies. In her role, Nancy works on several research projects from a project management, data and research perspective.
- Elizabeth Newton is a Stanford PhD with deep experience as a Registered Psychologist specializing in Business. Dr. Newton works with Start-Ups, Multinationals, Crowns and Non-Profits, with a focus on creating healthy, innovative organizations that attract and inspire high performers.
About Praxis Spinal Cord Institute
Praxis Spinal Cord Institute is a Canadian-based not-for-profit organization that drives innovation in spinal cord injury research and care. One of Praxis’ key priorities is to increase the number of SCI innovations brought to market that can directly benefit individuals that are affected by this debilitating and life-long condition. Praxis works with SCI researchers and partners in the community to ensure innovations that can benefit people with SCI make it to market.
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