LegWorks developing better, more affordable prosthetic knees for developing world

TORONTO (May 27, 2015)  – LegWorks Inc., backed with a $2 million blend of private and Government of Canada investments catalyzed by Grand Challenges Canada, is a new Toronto-based company that will contribute to a better life for amputees in developing countries.

LegWorks3

Stripping the ability to walk, lower-limb amputation restricts independence, employment potential and productive participation in the community and affects over 10 million people. The WHO estimates that only five to 15 per cent of all lower-limb amputees in the developing world have access to appropriate prosthetic services and technologies — a large unmet need. Photo credit: Patrick Brown © 2014 Panos.

The LegWorks “All-Terrain Knee” (AT-Knee) is a safe, high-functioning, durable, affordable prosthetic knee joint developed at Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.  It enables lower-limb amputees to walk more efficiently, safely and comfortably.  Its patented design provides incredible stability, is easy to fit and maintain, and can even be used in harsh environments, including water.

“With the AT-Knee and LegWorks, it is our goal to begin to provide more universal access to better prosthetic care for individuals living with amputations around the world,” said Jan Andrysek, scientist in the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. “We want to make high-quality and well-functioning prosthetic devices affordable and accessible for the many individuals whose needs are currently left unmet.”

In trials, early users in 10 countries reported a 95 per cent preference for the relatively low-cost AT-Knee to more expensive existing technologies. Developed with a $100,000 Grand Challenges Canada seed grant awarded in 2012 to the Bloorview Research Institute, the AT-Knee easily outperformed existing technologies under rigorous conditions in El Salvador, Chile and Myanmar.

LegWorks LogoWith the new funding, LegWorks will mass produce its innovative, affordable prosthetic knee, the All-Terrain Knee (AT-Knee), the functionality and durability of which makes it ideal for amputees living in the developing world. The $2 million investment deal includes a loan via Grand Challenges Canada of up to $1 million (of which $405,000 has been dispersed), matched by MaRS Innovation, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Ontario Centres of Excellence and a group of private angel investors. With the $1 million expected from private investors and foundations matched by federal funds, the project will receive an anticipated $2 million to scale-up the success of the company.

In the first five years, LegWorks expects 37,000 units to be sold via distributors, NGOs, prosthetic clinics and government rehab facilities, in both high-income countries and the developing world. (more…)

What Wayne Gretzky taught me about business in 20 minutes

Editor’s note: We don’t usually post personal essays on MI’s website, but we couldn’t pass on this one. Whether you’re a hockey fan or an entrepreneur looking for a fresh business perspective, we hope you’ll agree.

Last Wednesday, I was meeting an old friend for lunch in downtown Toronto. We’re both from Edmonton; we were classmates at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. And we’re hockey fans. So I said, “Let’s have lunch at Wayne Gretzky’s.”

We didn’t expect to meet Wayne himself, but that’s what happened. One minute I was eating fish tacos. The next minute, my friend’s pointing with his fork: “Dude, Wayne Gretzky’s right behind you.”

Wayne Gretzky (centre) and MI's Hassan Jaferi (right) with X.

Wayne Gretzky (centre) and MI’s Hassan Jaferi (right) with Matthew Killick.

I was in Grade 2 when Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1987. One of my classmates was the daughter of Andy Moog, the team goalie. He brought the cup into class after the Oilers won so we could all touch it. I grew up playing street hockey in Edmonton and idolizing Wayne. We all did.

So you’ll understand that we had to stop him and say hi. We just had to.

And then we were stunned when he put his glass down on our table and spent 20 minutes talking to us about his various business activities.

My hands were shaking as we left the restaurant an hour later. But here’s five things I managed to take away from this surreal and wonderful experience. (more…)

Flybits announces second closing of $4.75M Series A financing

Vodafone expands Toronto-based company’s global partners to advance mobile platform offerings

Flybits Corporate LogoTORONTO, April 28, 2015 – Vodafone, one of the world’s largest global mobile carriers, has led a second closing of Flybits’ Series A round through Vodafone Ventures. The announcement builds on Flybits’ previously announced Series A financing in August 2014, which was led by Robert Bosch Venture Capital and Trellis Capital.

This announcement was covered in the Financial Post, TechVibes, PE HUB and BetaKit.

As an innovative software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, Flybits enables consumer-focused enterprises to expand and manage mobile experiences that deliver targeted content and services. Its platform enhances mobile services to deliver a better customer experience, drive sales and capture analytical insight to establish a competitive advantage. The Flybits solution is easy to deploy, user-friendly and scalable.

“We’ve enjoyed an excellent partnership with Vodafone since beginning an incubation project with them almost two years ago,” said Dr. Hossein Rahnama, founder and chief product officer of Flybits. “They helped us make our product carrier-grade, and this investment will allow us to leverage their presence in more than 21 countries. With the support of our strategic investors, Bosch and Vodafone, our plan is to become the leading platform for companies to develop and deliver intelligent and context-aware mobility solutions.”

“I congratulate Flybits on today’s announcement,” said the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade. “Flybits has used many of the services our government offers to help Canadian businesses succeed abroad including the Canadian Technology Accelerators (CTA). Through our network of Trade Commissioners and various programs, this government is committed to helping companies such as Flybits grow beyond our borders to expand globally, creating jobs and economic prosperity across Canada.” (more…)

MaRS Innovation statement on the 2015 Federal Budget

mi_logo_squareTORONTO, ON (April 23, 2014) — MaRS Innovation congratulates the Federal Government’s deepened commitment to support Canadian research and innovation, particularly in the healthcare sector. In particular, the $42 million over five years dedicated to support the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation at Baycrest Health Sciences, which includes $32 million in support from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev).

Baycrest is a founding member institution of MaRS Innovation.

“As a Baycrest partner and long-time champions of the commercialization potential of its world-class science in brain and geriatric health care, MaRS Innovation welcomes this news,” says Dr. Raphael (Rafi) Hofstein, president and CEO. “We look forward to advancing existing neuroscience projects in partnership with Baycrest, such as The Virtual Brain, and to collaborating on new start-up companies and licenses related to dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

Other promising budget allocations for the innovation sector include: (more…)

Life Sciences Ontario’s statement on the 2015 Ontario Budget

LSO Building Blocks

TORONTO, ON (April 23, 2015) — Life Sciences Ontario (LSO) applauds the government’s continued commitment to supporting life sciences through the Ontario Health Innovation Council and its accompanying $20 million innovation fund, programs to support job creation for Ontario’s highly educated young workforce and a new approach to providing the venture capital needed to support the commercialization of technologies and growth of companies in the life sciences sector.

Specifically, LSO notes the following commitments from the 2015 budget that will help drive innovation in Ontario:

  • Endorsing the Ontario Health Innovation Council report, which will establish a $20 million Health Technology Innovation Fund and appoint a chief innovation strategist to act on the report’s recommendations.
  • Funding the TalentEdge Program, which provides internships for graduate and postgraduate students and is integral to boosting campus-linked industrial research while developing and commercializing the innovative ideas of young researchers.
  • Committing $23.5 million over five years to help establish the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation Centre at Baycrest Health Sciences, a world leader in cognitive neuroscience, and $25 million over five years to support the recently established Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM). (more…)

Triphase Accelerator Corporation initiates phase I study of marizomib and bevacizumab in patients with Glioblastoma

Triphase-logo-WebTORONTO and SAN DIEGO, (April 22, 2015) — Triphase Accelerator Corporation, a private drug development company dedicated to advancing novel compounds through Phase II proof-of-concept, today announced that it has initiated a Phase I proof-of-concept clinical study of marizomib. The study is evaluating an intravenous (IV) formulation of marizomib, a novel and highly potent proteasome inhibitor, in combination with bevacizumab (Avastin®) in patients with glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive malignant primary brain tumor.

The study is recruiting and enrolling patients at the UC Irvine Health Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program at the University of California, Irvine, with Daniela Bota, M.D., Ph.D., and at The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University Hospital with Annick Desjardin, M.D. (more…)

Onyx Motion’s digital coach Swish featured on Canada AM

Swish, by Onyx Motion, is a wearable virtual coach that helps basketball players improve their shooting technique while emulating their hardcourt heroes.

Swish, by Onyx Motion, is a wearable virtual coach that helps basketball players improve their shooting technique while emulating their hardcourt heroes.

UTEST company Onyx Motion‘s lead product, Swish — a basketball virtual coach that currently works with Android Wear smartwatches to help basketball athletes to improve their shooting technique and emulate their heroes — was featured on Canada AM this morning.

Watch the clip of Onyx Motion’s Swish on Canada AM, CTV’s flagship morning show. Product feature plays after advertisements and begins at 1:40 mark.

Think you’ve got an equally great software-based idea for a start-up? UTEST is currently recruiting for its fourth cohort.

Tom Emrich, a Toronto-based consultant and blogger who specializes in mobile, tablets and wearable technology, presented Swish to Canada AM hosts Marci Ien, Beverly Thomson and Jeff Hutcheson using a Sony SmartWatch 3.

“The application takes your form, measures it and, using the motion sensor of the smartwatch, compares it to experienced players’ data and provides you with a tip,” Emrich explained. “It’s really trying to make sure your next shot is going to be a slam dunk.”

Onyx Motion is part of UTEST’s third cohort. The incubator program, which MaRS Innovation co-directs with the University of Toronto. UTEST is currently recruiting companies to its fourth cohort. (more…)

Globe and Mail features UTEST company eQOL’s home dialysis technology

EQOL logo“When Binh Nguyen, then a graduate student in biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto, was working in the renal engineering department of a local hospital, he was struck by what he felt was a suboptimal setup for dialysis treatment,” writes Jordana Dixon in “Health startup helps patients become more independent,” for the Globe and Mail on April 13, 2015.

eQOL Inc. is a University of Toronto and MaRS Innovation start-up company that participated in and graduated from the University of Toronto Early-Stage Technology (UTEST) program’s second cohort.

UTEST is currently accepting applications for its fourth cohort.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Taking these complications into consideration, Mr. Nguyen envisioned an all-encompassing lateral system that would optimize the process of in-home dialysis utilizing technology, but most importantly, improving patient experience. (more…)

How to get accepted into the UTEST start-up incubator: Drive and differentiation

UTEST is now accepting applications to Cohort 4

utestEditor’s note: As of today, the University of Toronto Early-Stage Technology (UTEST) program, which MaRS Innovation co-directs with the University of Toronto, is accepting applications for Cohort 4. The full application is available on the UTEST website.
 In meantime, it’s our pleasure to reprint Brianna Goldberg’s “day-in-the-life-of-an-entrepreneur” feature on Cohort 3 company Nvest, published for U of T News.

Jackie Yan focuses on tweaking his PowerPoint slide deck despite the chaos unfolding around him.

Nvest team at work in front of a computer

Near the entrance to the office space he shares with teams from the six other startups that are part of the UTEST accelerator program, a phone spits distorted tones of an investment-related conference call at Hanna Tomory, CEO of a fatigue-management start-up called Syncadian, as she scratches a list of notes.

A few steps down the hall, Marissa Wu, founder of the digital sports coaching wearable startup called Onyx Motion, goes over presentation notes with her co-founder Vivek Kesarwani. They discuss the finer points of athlete training with the intensity of so many layup drills performed on the basketball net propped against the wall of their desk space.

Across the table in the conference room where Yan is feverishly editing his slides, James McCrae pieces together 3D sculptures of horses, wasps and dinosaurs created with software from his start-up, FlatFab.

“We’re hoping to make more stable structures with our 1.0 design, maybe integrating finger-joints,” McCrae explains as he prepares to demo FlatFab’s wares for a video crew from the Privy Council Office in Ottawa, Ontario.

The videographers are producing a video about MaRS Innovation today, which co-directs the UTEST accelerator program with the University of Toronto, and are capturing b-roll of UTEST founders at work on their ventures. With seven companies currently sharing the working space, there’s always something happening. (more…)

Smartphones and mobile tablets becoming mainstays for clinicians

VitalHub’s partnership with Microsoft and Intel for Seattle Children’s Hospital pilot and British Columbia contracts featured in Canadian Healthcare Technology

VitalHub logo: Patient Care, Evolved “As hospital invest continue to invest in mobile solutions, doctors and nurses are more likely to be texting on their smartphones or swiping their fingers across a tablet PCs than tapping away on desktop computers,” Dianne Daniel writes in the April 2015 issue of Canadian Healthcare Technology in an article titled, “Smartphones and mobile tablets are becoming essential tools for clinicians” (page 12-13 of the print edition).

VitalHub Corp, a Mount Sinai Hospital spun-off through partnership with MaRS Innovation, is among the healthcare technology companies delivering services to hospitals as part of this trend.

Daniel writes:

One company that is giving clinicians the option to use their preferred device — whether iOS, Android, or Windows 8, smartphone or tablet — is VitalHub Corp, a Mount Sinai spin-off launched in Toronto in 2009. “We have found that many hospitals provide their nurses with mobile devices and can therefore select the platform they would prefer for those users, but physicians are generally expected to be BOD,” said VitalHub CEO Lisa Crossley. “So for a mobile solution to be practical, it has to be cross-platform.” (more…)

Welcome to MaRS Innovation

MaRS Innovation commercializes the most promising research breakthroughs from 15 of Toronto’s top universities, institutions and research institutes. Our portfolio, built through over 1,000 intellectual property disclosures from our member institutions, turns discoveries into businesses through industry partnerships, licensing arrangements and start-up companies.

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