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Toronto-based healthtech startup Steadiwear has secured $1.1 million CAD ($900,000 USD) in seed financing to support the manufacturing and commercialization of its new product, a second-generation glove for people with Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s disease.
Steadiwear has finished developing the Steadi-Two, a smaller, lighter, more versatile version of its flagship glove product, which stabilizes the wrist joints of users, reducing the impact of hand tremors associated with these conditions.
Fresh funding in hand, Steadiwear plans to begin rolling out the Steadi-Two next year, as it looks to improve the lives of more people suffering from Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s disease.
The startup’s all-equity seed round, which closed in July, was co-led by new investor 3W Partners and an undisclosed United Kingdom-based angel who had previously invested in Steadiwear. It also saw participation from the Ontario Brain Institute and the Toronto-based Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation, and brings Steadiwear’s total funding to date to over $1.6 million CAD.
Steadiwear was founded in 2015 by CEO Mark Elias and chief marketing officer Emile Maamary, both of whom had seen family members struggle to cope with hand tremors. These tremors began to really catch Elias’ attention whenever we would return home from university to visit his family.
“I started to notice that a lot of my family members had tremors,” Elias told BetaKit. “Some of the experiences that I witnessed totally stayed with me: struggling to pour some coffee into a glass, or to cut a piece of cake. Those images were burned in my memory.”
Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s disease cause uncontrollable, debilitating tremors that can severely impact the daily lives of individuals living with these conditions. The economic burden on people with tremors is also significant, between the cost of medication, care, and other treatments.
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“I’m a civil engineer by background,” said Elias. “During my studies at the University of Toronto, I learned how to stabilize buildings against wind vibrations and earthquakes. So, I decided to apply the same principles to hand tremors, and that’s how the genesis of [Steadiwear] started.”
According to Steadiwear, by reducing hand tremors through its daily assistive tool, patients can go about their daily lives with less frustration, more independence, and experience a higher quality of life, while also reducing their healthcare costs.
Steadiwear released the first version of its glove, the Steadi-One, in 2019, gathering feedback that it has since incorporated into its next-generation offering, the Steadi-Two.
“We experimented with many different types of tech,” said Elias. “Weights, non-newtonian fluid dampers, conventional tune dampers, powered actuators, we built them and tested them. And the truth is, our competitive advantage is that we built a new class of custom technologies specifically to target tremors.”
The technology that underlies the Steadi-Two is inspired by a design used to stabilize buildings against earthquakes, called magnetic tuned mass damping. The Steadi-Two device uses a magnet-based system designed to move in the opposite direction of a person’s tremor to stabilize the wrist and forearm and minimize tremors.
Steadiwear said its tests have shown the new product can lead to an over 80 percent reduction in tremor amplitude. The Steadi-Two is half as large, 30 percent lighter, weighing in at less than one pound, and can adapt to a wider range of tremor types.
“In terms of ease of use, dependability, efficiency, affordability, we think [the Steadi-Two is] really the appropriate solution for the problem,” said Elias.
John Kirkconnell, a retired paramedic from Guelph, was the first person with Essential Tremor to try Steadi-Two as a beta tester, after first using the Steadi-One.
“It’s just marvellous,” said Kirkconnell, who has used the Steadi-Two to help with tasks like eating, drinking, and shaving. “Putting it on and taking it off is much easier, it’s smaller, and it’s lighter. It will make life so much easier for me.”
According to Steadiwear, the Steadi-Two’s battery-free feature also separates it from other comparable products on the market.
Elias said the startup’s seed round came at “a really important stage” for the Steadi-Two. “This funding is really going to bridge the gap between the end of the development cycle and international commercialization,” said Elias, who added that the firm plans to invest the majority of the proceeds in manufacturing and marketing, as it looks to begin rolling out the Steadi-Two.
Steadiwear has begun accepting pre-orders for the Steadi-Two in Canada and the United States, which it aims to sell for $650. Delivery is planned for during the first quarter of 2022. During the first half of next year, Steadiwear also intends to distribute samples of the glove to assistive technology clinics across North America.