By Alex Nemec, marketing communication specialist, Office of University Relations
Marquette University-based startup Venus Rehabilitation Technologies, LLC, founded and led by Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Dr. Sheila Schindler-Ivens, has been honored with the inaugural Emerging Company award from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Accelerating Medical Product Development group at the 2022 Healthcare Innovation Pitch competition.
The competition was a part of Milwaukee Tech Week and Wisconsin Tech Month and attracted entrepreneurs and investors from the Midwest to network and hear pitches from startups as they competed for $50,000 in prizes.
Venus Rehabilitation Technologies invented and earned patents in China, Europe and the United States for “CUped,” its assistive lower limb rehabilitation device that assists stroke patients.
“Having earned the first every Emerging Company award, the group of judges saw promise in Venus Rehabilitation Technologies and are encouraging movement along the path to bringing CUped to market,” Schindler-Ivens says. “It means a lot that the judges — who were mostly venture capitalists and angel investors — saw the value in what we are trying to do.”
Schindler-Ivens discovered in her research that stroke survivors tend not to use their paretic limb — the weaker or more heavily affected limb — in harmony with their healthy limb because of a lack of coordination rather than a lack of strength. CUped’s split-crank mechanism requires patients to maintain coordination between their legs to move the device’s pedals in rhythm.
Schindler-Ivens’ collaborators on developing CUped included Dr. Brian Schmit, professor of and Hammes Family Chair of the Marquette University and Medical College of Wisconsin Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering; former graduate student Domenic Busa; and Ph.D. candidate Tom Ruopp.
The Emerging Company award earned Venus Rehabilitation Technologies $5,000, which will go toward optimizing the algorithms that control CUped’s motors, Schindler-Ivens says.
“CUped works but it still allows for stroke survivors to cheat a little,” Schindler-Ivens says. “When we allow stroke survivors to cheat, we deprive them of opportunities for use-dependent recovery. My team has identified methods to fix this problem and the prize money will go toward implementing that fix.”
Marquette College of Health Sciences Dean Dr. William E. Cullinan says Schindler-Ivens is one of many faculty members within the college who exemplify the Jesuit tenet of cura personalis, or care for the whole person.
“Dr. Schindler-Ivens’ work and invention have the potential to transform stroke rehabilitation by helping patients use their paretic limb and ultimately regain the ability to walk,” Cullinan says. “The recognition that comes with the first ever Emerging Company award moves Venus Rehabilitation Technologies closer to realizing that potential.”
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