Alumni Spotlight: Liftware and PhotoniCare
At year-end, Larta reflects on our Commercialization Accelerator alumni companies whose technologies and founders positively impact human lives. As we look back with pride for all our cohort, we are especially honored to have worked with two incredible companies, Liftware and PhotoniCare, both of whom are developing technologies to heal the world.
Liftware - A Spoon for Shaky Hands
Did you know that there are roughly 10 million people in the U.S. affected by Essential Tremor, Parkinson’s disease, and tremors due to other neurological damage or dysfunctions? Further, many never seek medical care or help. Liftware (aka Lift Labs and formerly known as Lynx Design) develops stabilizing technologies to help people with minor to severe tremors use everyday items with ease.
Anupam Pathak, a social entrepreneur, had his “a-ha moment” as a graduate student while researching and developing technologies for the Army Research Laboratories on stabilizing weapons for soldiers in combat. Anupam thought, “why not apply the technology to counterbalance tremors in the hands?” Anupam founded Lynx Design and received his first NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant in 2010 to work on a feasibility study of an Active Cancellation of Tremor device. In 2011, he received a follow-on Phase II grant from NIH to develop a prototype and further his clinical research for the technology.
Anupam participated in Larta’s NIH Commercialization Accelerator Program from September 2011 to June 2012, and learned how to design a viable business around his ideas, develop a roadmap to execute his strategy, and deploy his technology to the general public. In 2013, Anupam launched his first product to the market, Liftware™, a spoon that uses sensors to detect hand tremors and counteract them to minimize the spilling of food. In Sept 2014, Lift Labs was acquired by Google Life Sciences. Before the acquisition, Lift Labs did not spend any money on advertising. Instead, they focused on sharing their story and reaching customers through social media.
“A key aspect of Liftware is a design with empathy. We hear of people struggling every day, and decided to apply technology in a way to directly help. We hope the final product is something people can feel proud of using and allow them to regain independence and dignity” says Anupam.
Anupam and his colleagues recently launched a selection of other attachments for the Liftware device addressing different levels of tremor and mobility. The base price is $295 per unit.
PhotoniCare - Handheld Technology for Ear Disease Screening
Ear infections are a common nuisance in children, but some infections can lead to serious medical issues when improperly diagnosed or treated. PhotoniCare is a medical diagnostics company that developed a revolutionary, non-invasive, handheld device to diagnose, treat and monitor the middle ear infections that affect 80% of children.
Co-founder and CEO Ryan Shelton and his colleagues, Stephen Boppart and Ryan Nolan, are passionate about innovative optical imaging systems for biological discovery and medical applications. As loving fathers, they are inspired to improve healthcare for children. They began to develop their device in the bioengineering research lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). They founded the company in 2013 and received their first NIH SBIR grant in 2015.
Ryan Shelton and Ryan Nolan participated in Larta’s NIH Commercialization Accelerator Program in the same year, where they were selected for the Regulatory/Reimbursement Training Track. Shelton and Nolan finished the program with a much better understanding of their reimbursement pathway for the device, from both private payor and Medicare’s perspectives. Ryan said the program gave them “a much better frame of reference for developing our evidence in preparation for coverage efforts in the future.”
PhotoniCare has received numerous of awards and recognition in the media and the healthcare industry. Most recently, they were recognized at the 2018 Medtech Conference in September where they received the MedTech Innovator Execution Award and the AdvaMed Accel Virginia Shimer Rybski Memorial Award.
Judy Hsieh is a Program Director at Larta Institute. She leads the team in charge of setting strategic directions, planning, development, and execution of various Commercialization Accelerator Programs (CAP), funded by US and foreign government agencies. The Commercialization Accelerator Programs help entrepreneurs accelerate their market readiness. Judy also provides a range of process improvement and process management to ensure cross-pollination and best practices to enhance the programs team. Judy has been part of the Larta team since April 2008.