Made in Minnesota

Technology helps improve balance and walking speed

Walkasins surpasses funding goal

Technology helps improve balance and walking speed

By Hill Tiguila

Eden Prairie–based medical-startup RxFunction Inc., a wearable technology company, is preparing for FDA registration and market launch — as well as another round of clinical trials — of its product, walkasins, the first wearable sensory prosthesis (WSP). In April, the company announced that it had completed its Series A funding round, raising $7.5 million, surpassing its initial $5 million-dollar goal. Edina-based Cedar Point Capital, LLC., acted as the exclusive placement agency for the offering. 

Manufactured in Minnesota, walkasins was created to help patients who experience gait and balance problems due to peripheral neuropathy, a disorder in which the nerves in the feet are damaged, which can cause numbness and pain, leading to a loss of balance function and increasing the risk of falls. It is a common consequence of diabetes and chemotherapy and widely present in the elderly population.

Walkasins consists of a thin, sensor-instrumented foot pad that is placed in a shoe. The pad connects to a leg unit that contains a micro-processor and a proprietary algorithm that activates vibrator motors placed around the leg to provide tactile balance cues to the patient. Leaning too far in any one direction triggers a vibration on that side of the leg, signaling to the brain to correct balance. Patients can then better sense where their feet are on the ground, helping them to improve balance and mobility. 

A recent clinical trial of walkasins at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Minneapolis demonstrated beneficial short-term immediate effects of walkasins' use on functional balance and walking speed. Another clinical trial, walk2Wellness, is scheduled to begin this summer and
will include 100 patients from across the country for up to one year.

RxFunction was founded in 2010 by Dr. Lars Oddsson and Dan Leach. Oddsson co-invented and developed the patented technology while working as a research professor at Boston University’s Neuromuscular Research Center. It was later funded by a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health.

 

This story appears in print in our July/August issue. For a complimentary subscription, click here.