About 800,000 Americans suffer from a stroke each year. This is an increase from years past due to the ever-aging demographics of America. Not only are there more strokes each year, strokes are now more survivable than before thanks to advances in technology and medicine. Each year, the population of stroke survivors increases, creating a growing and underserved market.

Strokes are notorious for causing long-term disability including forms of paralysis, memory loss and constipation. Post stroke, about 90 percent of patients require a form of rehab; many of these rehab methods are now being deemed “inadequate” for fully rehabilitating a patient.

Traditional methods of rehabilitation revolve around what is known as gait therapy. Gait therapy is the rehabilitation of a patient’s walking ability post-injury or disability. One of the go-to pieces of equipment for gait therapy has been the treadmill, but treadmills lack the dynamic ability to rehab a patient’s sense of balance so that they may correctly walk. In order for a stroke patient’s balance to be rehabbed, the neuromuscular pathways need to train.

KIINCE (pronounced KEAN-say) is a start-up company developing equipment specifically to rehabilitate a person’s sense of balance. The ideas and patented technology of KIINCE have advanced to the final round of the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will conclude June 2-3 at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Madison.

Patrick Walters, one of the company’s co-founders and CEO, has worked with Dr. Kreg Gruben on the project. Gruben is a UW-Madison neuro-mechanics researcher and is the chief scientist and primary founder of KIINCE. Gruben is also an engineer and inventor who has invested decades of research into KIINCE’s technology.

“There’s a sizeable market that needs attention and current products aren’t fulfilling their promise, but Dr. Gruben’s technology can do so,” Walter said.

KIINCE’s technology is based on Gruben’s research on neuromuscular pathways and balance. Rather than develop a piece of rehab equipment that focuses on the motion of walking, Gruben’s “KIINCE Machine” emphasizes rebuilding neuro-pathways to repair a patient’s sense of balance.

“Think about spinning around in a circle and being able to quickly orient yourself; it means you have a healthy neuromuscular pathway,” Walters said. “If you’ve had a stroke or traumatic brain injury, (KIINCE) now has the ability to retrain these pathways in your brain.”

The device is an all-in-one system consisting of hardware, the instrumented foot- plates, sensors, and patient monitor as well as software (the feedback loop) that drives the foot-plate motion and guides the patients walking pattern, Walters explained.

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The KIINCE Machine is undergoing the early stages of clinical trials at several rehabilitation centers in Wisconsin but looks to expand into others soon.

“The KIINCE device fits the portfolio for healthcare investment groups,” Walters said and “the medical devices of KIINCE appear attractive to investors.”

According to Walters, KIINCE also has three more minimally viable product agreements pending with three more clinics. Within the clinics the KIINCE machines would see large scale use, helping the company to further grow.

KIINCE’s growth aims to affect not only the well-being of stroke patients but Madison’s economy. Walters estimates that within three to five years KIINCE could generate up to 40 jobs in the Madison area.

“These would be high-paying jobs and not the usual salary position jobs,” Walters stated. “These are the type of jobs that would make a positive impact on the local economy.” However, in order to reach that level of job growth, Walters said the key is reaching the market of underserved stroke patients.

“We will be able to reach these people when we’ve acquired our funding and reached our critical milestones,” he said.

— By Scott Erickson, for WisBusiness.com . Erickson is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences.