Why Lift Labs was founded: Pathak began working on human tremor cancellation as part of his graduate research project at the University of Michigan. Funded by the Department of Defense, the project was aimed at helping soldiers stabilize rifle barrels under conditions of combat stress and fatigue. Pathak, working with neurologists, discovered that similar technology could help patients with Parkinson?s and other motion disorders.
Product: Liftware Spoon
Available: Launching September 2013
What it is: A self-stabilizing spoon that enables people with motion disorders?such as Parkinsons and Essential Tremor ? to feed themselves without assistance.
Market niche: Health-related devices
Lift Labs closed a $1million seed round from unnamed angel investors, announced on September 18, 2013. Previously, Pathak received $800,000 through a two-phase grant from the NIH. Lift Labs was accepted into the four-month long 2013 RockHealth accelerator program, and the company is currently raising additional investment to support production of the Liftware Spoon and additional R&D.
RBR’s Take:The health care technology market is booming. There are more than 78 million baby boomers heading into retirement, and one hallmark of that generation has been a commitment to living life on their terms. Maintaining quality of life through medical, surgical and technological interventions will be an important part of their future.
More than 10 million Americans?and about 4-10 percent of those over 60?are affected by essential tremor and other illnesses (such as Parkinson?s) that cause involuntary shaking. More than just an inconvenience, uncontrolled tremors can make it impossible for an individual to eat, use a tooth brush, keys, or do simple household tasks. Losing these skills that support indepent living affects patients? physical and mental health.
The Lift Labs team wants to help patients retain their independence. The spoon uses active cancellation; motion sensors feed data to the onboard control, which analyzes motion frequency to isolate the intended motion (eating) from the unintended motion (the tremor). Acutuators respond by moving the spoon exactly opposite to the tremor?s motion, essentially erasing the patient?s jitter as they use the spoon. In clinical trials, the Liftware Spoon controlled 70 percent of the tremor and allowed patients to eat naturally. Soup, cereal, and other foods stayed on the spoon from plate to mouth without landing in patient?s lap or back in the dish.
At launch, the Liftware Spoon is priced at $200-300. That?s a lot for a spoon, but Pathak compares the price to the current option: an 8-hour, $100,000 brain surgery, or a daily drug regimen that has a very limited range of effectiveness. Plus, he says the spoon is just the first step. Lift Labs hopes to introduce additional attachments for the device?such as a fork, personal hygeine and home repair tools?over the next few years.
But business success won?t rest entirely on the ?shaky? future of the boomers. Lift Labs holds a patent on the design of its stabilizing technology, and Pathak says more patents are in progress. The technology described by these patents could easily be leveraged in other contexts, outside the health care marketplace. One critical option may be on hand-assembly and manufacturing lines, where stabilizing technology could significantly boost worker precision and output.