By Anna Lynn Spitzer
Irvine, Ca, January 4th, 2013 -- The company may not be completely moved into its new headquarters but TechPortal’s most recent tenant already feels right at home in the Calit2 Building. Flint Rehabilitation Devices – a partnership among two UC Irvine graduate students and their faculty advisors – is based on the work of the students, whose projects have been displayed and demonstrated in the Calit2 eHealth Collaboratory for the past couple of years.
The fledgling company develops and produces devices to aid arm and hand rehabilitation after stroke and other injuries. It derives its name from the flint stone used by early humans to create fire, a symbol of what is possible with the right tools.
Flint’s first product is the MusicGlove, a sensor-laden glove used with a music software game to strengthen hand and arm muscles. It also will market an arm-therapy device that temporarily converts a manual wheelchair into a rocking chair. Users of the Resonating Arm Exerciser rock the chair by pushing on a lever attached to it, increasing functional movement and reducing long-term arm impairment.
“There are more than 2 million survivors of stroke living in the U.S. who have substantial upper-extremity impairment but they have little appropriate technology to exercise their arms and hands at home,” said company co-founder Nizan Friedman, who adds that there are also hundreds of thousands of others with spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, traumatic brain injury and other conditions.
The devices currently are in use at research and clinical facilities across the country, including the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, UCI and UCLA. Both the MusicGlove and the RAE are proving effective in pilot studies and have been well-received by users.
Friedman, a biomedical engineering doctoral candidate, founded the company with mechanical engineering doctoral candidate Dan Zondervan, and UCI engineering professors David Reinkensmeyer and Mark Bachman.
The company has contracted with a sewing vendor in Santa Ana to manufacture the gloves; electronic components will be added in the new TechPortal space.
Early prototypes are based on an open-source version of “Frets on Fire,” a “Guitar Hero”-like game that encourages users wearing the glove to make music by practicing functional gripping movements. The company, however, is working to build its own video-game software, which will be more therapy-oriented, and will track patients’ usage and monitor their progress.Flint has received a $150,000 Small Business Innovative Research grant from the National Institutes of Health, as well as two additional SBIR grants from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation, a branch of the U.S. Department of Education.
Those grants are underwriting a partnership with UCI, which is conducting rigorous testing of the devices in home settings.
After gaining FDA approval – expected in the next few months – Flint will begin selling the MusicGlove to research centers and physical therapy clinics. “There are about 16,000 clinics and 700,000 to 800,000 people who go through them every year in the U.S.,” said Friedman.
In addition to using the device during clinical therapy, the centers can prescribe it for home use. Patients will have the option to purchase the system, which will consist of the glove, a laptop computer and a controller that plugs into the glove. “We want to reduce the amount of knowledge and training time required to use it,” Friedman said. “We want it to work right out of the box.