Southwest startup is finalist at Minnesota Cup

Credit: The Walkasin by RxFunction helps patients keep their balance. --- Submitted image

The product of a Southwest-area resident’s startup company earned a finalist position at this year’s Minnesota Cup, which awards breakthrough ideas.

The “Walkasin” attaches to the ankle and senses how wearers keep their balance. If they shift too far in the wrong direction, a vibration similar to a smart phone prompts them to correct. It’s designed for the elderly, stroke victims, or patients at risk of falling.

The technology came to Minneapolis by way of Lars Oddsson, who invented it with a grad student in his lab at Boston University’s NeuroMuscular Research Center. Oddsson came to Minneapolis in 2007 to launch the Sister Kenny Research Center (now part of the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, a clinical service line of Allina Health). He met Dan Leach, who lives in Edina’s Morningside and Rolling Green neighborhoods, through their kids’ Edina soccer league. Leach has a background in banking and management, and they decided to team up to form RxFunction Inc.  

The product isn’t on the market yet, but RxFunction has a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study 100 product trials by stroke victims and patients at risk of falling. The company is preparing for clearance review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“We’ll evaluate its effectiveness as a clinical tool to help people deal with balance issues,” Leach said.

Earlier studies are promising — a small study at New York University at Buffalo showed that a short practice session with Walkasins was comparable to three-six months of balance exercise.