12th April 2021
We spoke with Gianpaolo Fusari from the Helix Centre Digital Health Innovation lab to learn more about his venture, OnTrack Rehab helping stroke survivors and how ARC is supporting him in this.
This project profile is part of the Aspect Research Commercialisation (ARC) Accelerator, Class of 2021. ARC (formerly SUCCESS) is now on to its second cohort of university-based ventures seeking to change the world through their innovative, creative and disruptive ideas.
Q: What’s your academic background and how did it lead to starting your venture?
I’m an industrial designer and I have been working in innovation and design for healthcare for the past 10 years. I work at the Helix centre which is a collaboration between the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. The Digital Health Innovation Lab is where design, clinical excellence and engineering strives to solve problems in the front line.
We are design led and human centred. So we approach every project by first of all, understanding the user in their understanding what their needs are. As part of the group at the Helix Centre, I started working in stroke rehabilitation. And that’s how OnTrack Rehab started. It’s a new rehabilitation platform that can help stroke survivors regain the use of their arm.
Q: What does your venture aim to achieve and how does it tackle the issue?
Stroke is the biggest cause of disability in the world and in the UK. There’s about 100,000 strokes every year, about 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK and half of which have some form of disability. Of these, the most common is arm disability. And a lot of the time, stroke survivors pass their acute phase, they’re discharged from hospital and then their rehabilitation dies down. However, they’re still recovering and recovery lasts for a long period of time. They feel that they’re left to their own devices, and they don’t always know what or how to do any of the rehab.
So with the patient perspective and insight from the therapists in mind, we created a platform that helps monitor patient activity or arm activity remotely. Wearable devices like an Apple Watch, for example, will track a patient’s activity in the arm. Then, the data will be used to provide them with a coaching package that gives them motivation and actionable insights on how to involve their arm in everyday tasks.
This is different as it looks beyond that hour with the therapist, is more holistic and gives a sense of accountability to the patient.
“The aim is to reduce dependency on the therapist, whilst not leaving them to their own devices.”
Gianpaolo Fusari, OnTrack Rehab
In the long term, the vision is to be able to support and to create a platform of rehabilitation that suits different needs and different conditions globally. Because as I said, stroke is the biggest cause of disability in the world so the need is out there.
Q: How is the ARC Accelerator program supporting you in bringing your venture to life?
I think it’s great that this initiative helps people with really interesting ideas, but they don’t necessarily know how to push them forward to commercialisation because they simply don’t fit that “normal” STEM or Innovation Pathway.
I’ve found the ARC program incredibly useful as it’s met me where I am. So I’m at that step where I’m starting to think about market validation, the people to contact, doing a lean canvas. And all of that has been super helpful to progress our team’s thinking about how we approach this and how we package it to get us to the next step.
Photo credit: Karolina Grabowska via Pexels