MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies of Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S., won the BioInnovation Challenge on Wednesday for ParaGlide, a device that can help wheelchair users reposition themselves.
In winning the region’s main life sciences pitching competition, MHT will take home $15,000 in seed funding and an advisory services package worth more than $30,000, including legal, PR, accounting, sales and insurance services.
ParaGlide allows wheelchair users to move from a slouching to upright position by using a remote control that operates a motor-driven belt behind his or her back. This allows wheelchair users to avoid skin ulcers, and allows caregivers to avoid injury when trying to move people in wheelchair.
“Winning the BioInnovation [Challenge] has validated that we have a product that is meeting an unmet need in the market,” CEO Matthew MacKenzie said in a press release. “The prize package will be tremendous help in tying up loose ends and answering our unanswered questions in the next few months as we get ready for market in 2017.”
MHT’s remote control also stores data on how often wheelchair users reposition themselves. This way, caretakers can ensure their patients in wheelchairs are moving around enough.
The Mayo Clinic recently said wheelchair users should change their sitting position every 15 minutes. However, this is usually achieved via a large, lever-type belt attached to a ceiling that takes 10 to 15 minutes to administer, often requiring two caregivers. The ceiling belt often goes unused because of the time and effort required to use it, which means wheelchair users don’t move often enough.
MacKenzie revealed that treating ulcers costs Nova Scotia $40,000 each year and workplace injury costs the province $100 million.
“A caretaker’s first words were ‘Sweet Jesus,’” MacKenzie said about showing the ParaGlide technology to a caregiver in Dartmouth. He also told the audience about a mother who read a Chronicle-Herald article about MHT and said she was so happy that ParaGlide technology exists because she can now better help her wheelchair-confined son move around more easily.
The other finalists in the BioInnovation Challenge were NovaResp, which is developing software that allows sleep apnea patients to breathe more easily; and SomaDetect, which measures milk quality in real time and straight from the cow in order to produce the best possible milk.
Both the judging committee, called The Commercialization Council, and audience voted on their favourite of the three finalists. The evaluation criteria for The Commercialization Council included adaptability, market pull and consumer readiness.
MacKenzie has a history of building up a successful business using these three criteria, as he currently runs the manufacturing company, MacKenzie Atlantic. He plans to launch ParaGlide next year and estimates he’ll make a 54 per cent margin on each device by 2021, selling a unit for $2500 to individuals.
He wants to keep manufacturing in Nova Scotia so MacKenzie Atlantic can manufacture the device, though he does plan to sell into the U.S. and the rest of the world.
The sixth annual BioInnovation Challenge was part of BioPort Atlantic, a forum run by BioNova to bring together ideas from the life sciences community to build a network within the region, as well as bring Nova Scotian ideas to Canada, the U.S. and beyond.