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May 27, 2019 | Tom Ballard

HealthTech Accelerator #4: Friend’s paralysis drove Founder of Healing Innovations to find better solution

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another article in a series spotlighting the companies that are participating in the inaugural “HealthTech Accelerator” sponsored by CO.LAB, Erlanger Health System and Unum. “Demo Day” is June 5. To register, click here.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

A friend’s paralysis that was caused by an automobile accident is the event that caused Luke Benda to pursue a better solution for those impaired by neurological issues.

Healing Innovations is not the first start-up for the young Co-Founder and President whose company is based in Nashville, but it might be the one that has ignited his passion the most. Today, Benda is participating in the inaugural “HealthTech Accelerator” offered by Chattanooga’s CO.LAB in conjunction with Erlanger Health System and Unum.

Ironically, Benda is participating in his fourth start-up accelerator since launching Healing Innovations in January 2018. The others include TREAT, the acronym for the Center for the Translation of Rehabilitation Engineering Advances and Technology at Dartmouth College; Project Healthcare offered by the Nashville Entrepreneur Center; and the Life Science Tennessee Network.

“Each benefits us in different ways,” Benda says. His key reason for participating in the “HealthTech Accelerator” is to find a couple of pilot locations for the start-up’s Rise & WalkTM device.

“We are in late development for the beta prototype,” he says. Healing Innovation’s goal is to launch the pilots this fall with a full commercial launch planned for some time during the first quarter of 2020.

“Our mission is to advance outcomes for people with paralysis,” Benda explains.

The journey started in 2015 when his friend – Tim – was in an automobile accident and suffered a C5 spinal cord injury that paralyzed him from the neck down.

“Tim is a real fighter,” Benda says, so he made some progress while he was in therapy before the insurance coverage reached the maximum number of therapy treatments. “My family stepped-in to help, but we could not find the type of therapy that he really needed.”

That therapy is something called gait training that simulates the walking motion.

“You are retraining your spine and nerves on how to walk again,” Benda explains.

While gait training was what Tim and many other people in similar conditions need, there are three challenges. First, the current equipment requires a $300,000 investment. Second, to properly use the equipment, a therapy center must assign four Physical Therapists to each patient. Third, the space required for a gait machine is significant.

In other words, it’s costly. Fortunately, Healing Innovations has developed a much more cost-effective solution that is branded as the Rise & WalkTM. Among several advantages, the technology that was developed by Benda’s father, a Mechanical Engineer, costs 80 percent less than the current technology and requires only one Physical Therapist.

Benda sees it as a very disruptive technology in a large market. Global rehabilitation medical devices are a $10.6 billion market with $1.1 billion spent annually on rehabilitation devices by these facilities and $323 million spent on neurological rehabilitation devices.

Healing Innovations has one issued utility patent and has filed a provisional patent.

“It was a passion project to help a friend,” Benda says. Now, it is a promising business.

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