Founder Angie Conley, (middle row, left) and members of her Abilitech Medical team, as well as Minnesota Cup officials and judges, won the grand prize of $50,000 among nine finalists honored at the MN Cup awards in October at the University of Minnesota.
Abilitech Medical, which won the grand prize of this year’s Minnesota Cup entrepreneur competition, has closed on a $7.4 million round of investor capital; topping the $3.2 million in equity and debt it received in separate placements since January 2017.
Chief Executive Angie Conley said the money will be used to obtain U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance next year of its flagship product, support a clinical study of muscular dystrophy patients at the University of Minnesota and Gillette Children’s Hospital and to fund further commercialization and sales initiatives.
Abilitech andfounder Conley, who long has sought to develop a wearable device that empowers a person with a condition that restricts arm movement, earned $70,000 as the top-prize winner and winner of the LifeScience/Health IT division of MN Cup.
The idea is to provide assistance to patients, most of whom are in a wheelchair with conditions such as muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis, so that they can eat, drink and perform other basic self-care tasks, and even perform work at a computer or otherwise. That also empowers the wearer and lessens duties of family members, or reduces the need and cost of daily personal care attendants.
"We're working with world-class institutions to provide an accessible device for everyone," Conley said Tuesday. "It’s time to start seeing disability and ensure that everyone has access to care for themselves. In the first 12 months of commercialization we plan to sell into five different geographic areas and help as many people with upper arm weakness as we can!"
The “Abilitech Assist” fits to the arm and requires only a small percentage of its power to be provided by the user to enable greater range of motion. It is lightweight, easy to use and comfortable. In 2020, Abilitech expects to gain FDA clearance for the device.
“We are particularly excited to support Abilitech, given it is the winningest startup in Minnesota right now,” said CEO Cathy Connett of Twin Cities-based Sofia Fund, which invests exclusively in women-led companies. “The company won both the grand prize in the Minnesota Cup, the country’s largest state competition for startups, as well as the top woman-led category. Three weeks later, it took home the Minnesota High Tech Association’s TEKNE award for MedTech.
“We've watched Abilitech for three years and witnessed its team cross a threshold in product development and efficacy that will make the Assist device a reality in the new year.”
In addition to Sofia Fund, the equity capital was icontributed by Bios Partners, DEFTA Partner, EFO Holdings and other investors.
“We have shrunk the size and weight of the prototype, and improved the human factors,” Conley said this fall.