Engineers awarded HealthTech Innovation Challenge prize to take their products to market

By Melbourne School of Engineering

An entrepreneurial team from the Melbourne School of Engineering has used technology from the shipping industry to develop a robot to aid the rehabilitation of stroke patients. The team, ReCubit, was this week awarded $20,000 from the Graeme Clark Institute’s HealthTech Innovation Challenge, in order to accelerate their go to market strategy with further research and development trials.

The lead investigator of the ReCubit project is Associate Professor Denny Oetomo from the Department of Mechanical Engineering along with an entrepreneurial team from Translating Research at Melbourne (TRaM) and the Wade Institute.

ReCubit team member and Melbourne School of Engineering graduate Andrew Rowse said it was fascinating to to take technological principals that have been utilised in ships for hundreds of years, and apply them to an area such as stroke therapy.

“My work this year in the area of robotics to aid in stroke rehabilitation has taught me things I never expected to learn, taken me places I never expected to go, and the greatest pay off to me for all this won’t be measured in dollars, but the number of people across the world our business can potentially help.”

Approximately 475,000 people across Australia are currently living with the debilitating effects of stroke, and every 9 minutes an Australian’s life is changed forever with the impact of stroke.

Most stroke patients never recover enough mobility or dexterity to perform basic daily tasks, and this is attributable to the fact that they do not receive enough therapy during their post- stroke recovery phase due to therapists being physically limited in the amount of care they can provide on a one-to-one patient ratio.

The ReCubit prototype device is currently being trialled in Melbourne hospitals, and has strong potential commercial application in the healthcare sector due to its ease of use, affordability and portability, including in home-based care applications.

The potential export market for this home-grown HealthTech product is strong, with stroke incidence recorded at every 40 seconds in the US (800,000 stroke occurrences annually, 2200 per day), and globally an estimated 15 million people suffering stroke (of which 5 million die annually). Stroke is currently the leading cause of long-term disability according to a recent report by the US Centres For Disease Control and Prevention.

Another startup, NAVi Medical Technologies founded by Melbourne School of Engineering and Melbourne Business School alumni was another recipient of a $20,000 grant from the Graeme Clark Institute. Their device, called the neoNAV, aims to increase the accuracy of umbilical venous catheter (UVC) placement in newborns by providing clinicians with accurate, real-time information on the location of the catheter tip. The procedure is used to deliver vital drugs and nutrients to newborns in neonatal intensive care.