Brian Glaister has had the kind of run over the past few weeks that entrepreneurs dream of.
After years of toiling in obscurity, working just to develop a decent prototype, his startup, Seattle-based Cadence Biomedical, has suddenly grown into a media darling. It was featured in a pretty lengthy write-up in The Seattle Times. The San Jose Mercury News and the Associated Press took an interest in the company’s technology. Cadence pulled in another $1 million in grant support from the U.S. Department of Defense. And then yesterday he got to show a video, in front of several hundred Seattle community leaders at the Technology Alliance’s annual State of Technology Luncheon, how his company’s Kickstart device is helping disabled people to walk better.
“It’s been a whirlwind month, but I’ve never felt better,” Glaister said via e-mail. After the wave of publicity, “our phone has been ringing off the hook with potential Kickstart candidates who can’t wait to give it a try,” he says.
Cadence, which I profiled here in January 2012 when it scraped together its first $1 million financing, has been getting the greater recognition for its mechanical assist device, which helps improve the gait of people who struggle to walk, often because of neurological disorders like stroke or multiple sclerosis. The device, which looks like a fancy leg brace, has a spring that stretches from hip to ankle that is designed to store and release energy to help propel people as they walk forward. The tool is now going to be tested further, under the Department of Defense’s Joint Warfighter Medical Research Program, to see if it can help amputees get around more easily.
That could significantly expand the market for such a tool pretty fast. Even though the Cadence device has to be prescribed by a physician and custom-fitted by an orthotist, it isn’t a classic medical device like, say, a pacemaker, that requires years of expensive clinical trials before it can be first cleared for sale by the FDA.
Glaister, a former mechanical engineering Ph.D student at the University of Washington, licensed some of the underlying technology for the device from the Cleveland Clinic and has been working on the company since 2007, when he and co-founder Jason Shoen started the operation in Glaister’s basement. It has secured investment backing from HealthTech Capital, Alliance of Angels, Keiretsu Forum, Frontier Angels, and Wings. The Cadence device, which it calls the Kickstart Walking System, officially hit the U.S. market in September.
For a look at how the Cadence system works, check this video testimonial from Donna Jang, one of Cadence’s investors and enthusiastic users. She’s a stroke survivor.
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