Good things come from strong partnerships, and a new collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh and University City Science Center is definitely something the region can benefit from.
The Science Center announced on Monday that the University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute will participate in Phase 1 Ventures program, the Science Center’s accelerator that helps academics and entrepreneurs move their products to market. The two institutions will collaborate to commercialize a Pitt-developed technology for accurately aligning lower-limb prostheses.
The Pitt technology addresses a major pain point for many users of artificial limbs and their providers. According to the team behind the technology, the optimal angle between prosthesis components is hard to determine and tough to document and replicate. Therefore, users of artificial limbs face complications in safety and comfort, and must constantly get refitted. According to the Pitt Innovation Institute, the technology, once commercialized through the P1V program, will provide an effective and accurate way of measuring the alignment of prosthetic components.
There’s a huge market opportunity here: About 2 million people across the country live with limb loss, according to the Pitt Innovation Institute, and that number is expected to double by 2050. There are currently no products that compete on a direct basis. P1V has already helped Pitt form APO Technologies, a startup around the product. They’ve also already developed a commercialization plan.
This is great news, as it signals the start of what many hope will be continued collaboration between institutions and innovators across the region. In the past, technologists have called the region out for not acting like one — for not bridging the gap between city and suburban lines and even state boundaries. “The more universities across all parts of the region collaborate, the stronger the region’s output,” Science Center vice president of science and technology Chris Laing told us.
Science Center president and CEO Steve Tang sees this as a chance to bolster commercialization, too. “Phase 1 Ventures is making the geographic gap between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh just a little bit less of a divide for commercialization in Pennsylvania,” he said in a statement. “Partnerships like the one that the Science Center and Pitt are forging through Phase 1 Ventures mean that inventors and entrepreneurs can access the resources they need to create great new companies – regardless of where they are.”
P1V won a competitive grant at the end of 2016 to help support the development of even more technologies in the region. Since its founding in 2015, the program has already promised a total of more than $1.3 million as the first investment to portfolio companies.