Three medtech startups that aim to help people with mobility are among the finalists for the Minnesota High Tech Association’s annual Tekne Awards. Another finalist makes a wearable device to help people break chronic habits.
Rx Function (Eden Prairie, Minn.) and Lite Run have devices designed to aid lower-body mobility. Abilitech Medical’s device supports range of motion for the shoulders and elbows. Lite Run and Abilitech are both located in St. Paul.
RxFunction makes a wearable sensory prosthetic called Walkasins to aid people with diabetic neuropathy with balance and stability. Walkasins have a thin, sensor-instrumented foot pad that is placed inside the shoe to measure foot pressure. The foot pad is connected to the leg unit, which has a microprocessor and algorithm that can activate vibrator motors around the leg to give tactile balance cues to patients. In May, RxFunction announced the first long-term clinical trial of Walkasins in the Walk2Wellness study.
The AbiliTech Assist is designed for people who live with upper-extremity weakness due to a neuromuscular illness or injury to assist in activities of daily living. Worn on the arm and stabilized by a body jacket, the device uses a powered shoulder assist to aid with flexion and extension of the elbow and shoulders, according to the company. The Abilitech Assist is a Class 1, 510 (k)-exempt device. The company is planning on FDA clearance and commencement of sales in January 2020.
The Lite Run System was designed to lift a patient off of the ground to make walking and balancing easier. It uses differential air pressure inside a specially-designed suit to effectively unweight up to 50% of the patient’s body weight onto the company’s proprietary walker. Physical therapists can control the pressure inside the suit to increase or decrease the body weight as desired. A pneumatic and electro-mechanical system housed in the base of the walker operates to continuously control and balance the forces within the suit. The system also has a sit-to-stand feature to help in standing up from a wheelchair or bed.
The fourth startup, HabitAware, makes Keen, a smart bracelet that the company says can help manage trichotillomania (hair pulling), dermatillomania (skin picking), onychophagia (nail biting) and other compulsive behaviors. The bracelet was designed to help wearers retrain their brain by vibrating whenever it detects a specific trained behavior. In August, HabitAware was awarded a $300,000 federal research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to further develop and test the Keen device.
Hearing aid maker Starkey Laboratories (Eden Prairie, Minn.) is a finalist in the Emerging Technologies category for Livio AI, a new hearing aid with integrated sensors and artificial intelligence to set and track body and brain health goals.
“The Tekne Award finalists this year represent the ongoing strength of innovative Minnesota-based companies. They are pioneering leading-edge science and technology that has impact around the globe,” said Margaret Anderson Kelliher, president & CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association, in a prepared statement. “We’re looking forward to honoring these organizations at the 2018 Tekne Awards event and highlighting Minnesota’s incredible science and technology community.”
The Tekne Awards have 48 finalists in 16 categories, including advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, cybersecurity, emerging technologies and community impact. The winners will be chosen Nov. 29 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.