Spring Loaded Technology of Halifax on Thursday won the third annual BioInnovation Challenge, capturing the $35,000 first prize and gaining further validation of its innovative knee  brace technology.

The top prize at the pitching competition at BioPort Atlantic caps a year of accelerating victories for the young company, whose three principals first met in Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean class in September, 2012.

Spring Loaded is developing a knee brace that strengthens as well as stabilizes the joint. The product can increase the performance of athletes or grant greater mobility to people who have difficulty moving because of age, disability or obesity.

The Levitation knee brace looks like any other knee brace. But when the user crouches, it stores the energy produced by the movement. Then when he or she straightens the knee, the brace releases the power, adding to the strength of the motion.

“We have a disruptive technology that present a range of solutions that current knee braces aren’t focused on,” said CEO Chris Cowper-Smith in his presentation.

Spring Loaded edged out two other finalists: BIKE Scientific Inc., Halifax, which is developing a disposable cartridge that purifies blood samples so their proteins can be analyzed by a mass spectrometer; and BioPolyNet Inc., Fredericton, whose Nanocoil product is a novel and simple method to stabilize sand dunes, limit soil erosion and control dust.  The $35,000 first prize comprises a $15,000 seed investment and $20,000 in professional services.

Cowper-Smith and his Co-Founders Bob Garrish and Shea Kewin developed their technology last year and have been on a roll since then. They attracted a $100,000 investment from Halifax tech entrepreneur John Hamblin, the former president of Clarke IT Solutions. In the past few weeks, the company has been selected to tap the First Angel Network for funding. FAN Co-Founder Brian Lowe said yesterday the response from the network’s members has been enthusiastic, though it’s not known yet how much the funding will raise. The funding is expected to close later this month.

Cowper-Smith said in his presentation the company is looking for total funding of $1.3 million, of which about $800,000 is already committed.  It is now looking for about $500,000 in equity funding, much of which will come from FAN.

The founders intend to license the product to a maker of leg braces and hope to have an initial product on the market in mid-2014. Its first product will likely be for Alpine sports and work to let people enjoy skiing and snowboarding later in life, improve their performance and/or prevent injury.  It then plans to move into products for other sports.

The third phase of its development would be to help people with mobility issues. These products would likely sell for more than the sports products, and would be more sophisticated devises with greater comfort and controls that could vary the strength of the spring.

Cowper-Smith said the company now has access to more than 600 stores in Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes.

The BioInnovation Challenge has become an annual competition under which BioNova – Nova Scotia’s life sciences association – mentors young biotech and related companies in pitching and shaping a business case. There were two new features this year: first, there were a dozen semi-finalists who all pitched and received feedback the day before the finals; and second, the event was sponsored in part by BioAtlantech of Fredericton, so four of the semi-finalists were from New Brunswick.