San Antonio-based Leto Solutions Inc., an early-stage medical device startup company founded by students at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), was honored at the Texas Life Science Forum on February 20 as one of only 10 Rice Alliance Life Science Companies recognized for having the best business opportunity and promise for high-value commercialization. Fifty-five medical technology, biotech and pharma companies competed in the event on Thursday, Feb. 20 in Houston, Texas.
“We are very honored to receive this award and recognition from the Texas Life Science Forum,” says in a UTSA release. “Leto Solutions President and Chief Executive Officer, Becky Ariana notes that Leto was one of the earliest stage companies participating in the event. This recognition, validation and exposure is extremely valuable as we continue our efforts to raise seed funding that will be used to commercialize our first product for below-the-knee amputees and design our above-the-knee system.”
In the U.S., there are estimated to be nearly 2.8 million amputees, and 1.3 million of these are transtibial (below the knee) or transfemoral (above the knee) amputees, and the number is expected to grow to nearly 1.6 million over the next five years. According to the National Institutes of Health, 82% of all amputations are performed due to dyvascular disease, which is frequently a consequence of diabetes. Sixteen percent (16%) of amputations are due to trauma incidents, such as car accidents or injuries received during military service.
As the incidence of diabetes increases in the U.S., the need for limb amputation is also projected to increase. While amputations are rare in children under the age of 18 (2%), 42% of all amputees are over the age of 65. Prosthetic limbs are vital to an amputees ability to regain a level of independence that an amputation surgery may have caused them to lose. Equipping an amputee with a prosthesis provides him/her with a sense of confidence and an increased ability to achieve their desired level of mobility and activity.
Leto Solutions, Inc. is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for all transtibial and transfemoral amputees by improving the comfort of wearing a prosthetic limb. The company cites four factors considered most important to amputees when they make decisions about prostheses are a) the fit of the prosthesis; b) the ability to walk with the prosthesis; c) the avoidance of blisters on the residual limb; and d) avoidance of rashes/irritation on the residual limb Leto Solutions says that while the fit of a prosthesis is critical, the underlying causes of many problem issues – heat and sweat – are addressed by their first product, the Aquilonix Prosthesis Cooling System for Transtibial Prostheses — a prosthesis cooling and heat dissipation system for below the knee prostheses wearers to eliminate sweat that accumulates at the site where the amputee’s residual limb meets the socket of the prosthesis, is intense, uncomfortable, and frequently disrupts routine, daily activities. The system was designed to improve comfort for all transtibial amputees by by thermoelectrically cooling and dissipating heat from the prosthetic socket, keeping the limb-to-socket interface cool and dry.
The Aquilonix System provides a thermoelectrically cooled environment within the prosthesis socket that cools the space and removes heat. It is incorporated in the socket by the prosthetist when the new socket is being custom made, and includes 2 elements placed on the lateral and posterior sides of the socket, is lightweight (less than 2 pounds), conveniently powered by rechargeable batteries with a full charge life of five continuous hours in use (and can be used while charging). The Aquilonix System is easy for the prosthetist to install in the socket, easy for the user to operate by simply flipping a switch to turn the System ON or OFF, as well as safe, quiet, and requiring little maintenance.
The Aquilonix System for transtibial amputees is expected to be commercially available in the first half of 2014.
Leto Solutions is based at the San Antonio Technology Center (SATC). Its focus on improving the comfort and quality of life for lower-limb amputees was inspired by one of the company founders, Gary Walters, a U.S. Army veteran whose right leg was amputated due to injuries he sustained while serving in Iraq.
Developed in 2013 by a team of UTSA engineering and business seniors who won first place at the UTSA Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship (CITE) Student Technology Venture Competition, Leto Solutions has gained steady momentum since then. Leto President and CEO, Becky Ariana served as Leto team mentor throughout the UTSA CITE competition.
Cory Hallam, Ph.D. director of CITE, says, “At UTSA we have infused an interdisciplinary culture of technology entrepreneurship amongst our students. Through boot camps, mentoring programs, academic course work, incubation and our $100K Student Technology Venture Competition, UTSA is the leading entrepreneurial institution in the region.”
As an emerging Tier 1 institution, UTSA has generated a list of firsts under the leadership of Dr. Hallam, including the first technology licenses, faculty start-ups, student patent filings, student start-ups, on campus incubation of start-ups and partner companies and a Commercialization Council that bridges the gap between university research and the broader technology commercialization community in San Antonio.
By adopting best practices from around the country, UTSA has moved rapidly into the realm of entrepreneurship education, research and the practice of technology commercialization, including the bi-annual student $100K venture competition that links seniors in engineering and business to pitch new technologies to investors. Dr. Hallam has also received entrepreneurship grants from the NCIIA and SBA, conducts international research on entrepreneurial intent and ecosystem development and was awarded the Richard S. Howe Outstanding Service to Undergraduates Teaching Award. He notes that Leto Solutions is a prime example of how UTSA challenges and supports young technology entrepreneurs to have the audacity to try and change the world, “and this startup might just do that.”
The third annual Texas Life Science Forum was hosted by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, BioHouston, and the Texas Healthcare and BioScience Institute at the BioScience Research Collaborative.
Each company provided a five-minute business plan presentation. A group of investors, industry experts and business leaders from around the country reviewed the 55 presenting companies and selected 10, including Leto, as the “Rice Alliance Life Science Companies” for having the best business opportunity and promise for high value commercialization.
“This kind of recognition demonstrates the value being created by local institutions and life science companies as part of San Antonio’s innovation ecosystem,” observes Ann Stevens, president of BioMed SA, which served as a community partner for the statewide forum, in the UTSA release “Leto is one of the latest examples of San Antonio companies being recognized for bringing novel technology to market to address unmet medical needs.”
“Every year the quality of companies improves,” says Rice Alliance Managing Director Brad Burke, who announced the winners at the event. “This year we had a diversity of companies including rapid, in-office diagnosis of ENT illnesses to a catheter-based, minimally invasive heart pump for the treatment of chronic heart failure. As a group, the companies this year are further along which makes them more appealing to current investors, who have commented on the improved quality of the companies.”
The event is the largest life science venture capital conference in the Southwest and featured more than 70 industry and investment speakers. Among the 600+ attendees were venture capitalists and other investors, entrepreneurs, industry representatives, business leaders and service providers.
CITE is an interdisciplinary center of the UTSA College of Business and College of Engineering that fosters growth of entrepreneurs and new technology-based ventures through education, experiences, resources and support. Programs available include undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates for developing successful entrepreneurs.
The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is an emerging Tier One research institution specializing in health, energy, security, sustainability, and human and social development. With nearly 29,000 students, it is the largest university in the San Antonio metropolitan region. UTSA advances knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. The university embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property — for Texas, the nation and the world.
The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship (Rice Alliance) is Rice University’s flagship initiative devoted to the support of entrepreneurship. The mission of the Rice Alliance is to provide entrepreneurship education and to support the commercialization of technology innovations and the creation of new companies in the Texas and Houston region. Since i ts inception in 2000, the Rice Alliance has assisted in the launch of more than 250 start-ups which have raised more than half a billion dollars in early-stage capital. More than 1000 companies have presented at the 125+ programs hosted by the Rice Alliance, and of these, approximately 25 companies have been launched based on technology developed by Rice faculty and researchers and licensed from the Rice Office of Technology Transfer.
More than 26,000 individuals have attended Rice Alliance events in the past nine years and over 24,000 individuals subscribe to the Rice Alliance Digest newsletter. The Rice University Business Plan Competition is the World’s Richest and Largest, awarding more than $1.3 million in prizes; over 133 past competitors are in business today having raised in excess of $394 million.
Unique among many entrepreneurship centers, the Rice Alliance was formed as a strategic alliance of three schools at Rice University: the George R. Brown School of Engineering, the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, and the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management. In 2013, Rice University was recognized as #4 of the best graduate entrepreneurship programs in the U.S. by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine.
BioHouston Inc. BioHouston Inc. is a nonprofit corporation founded by Houston area academic/research institutions. They are leading a broad effort to establish the Houston region as a vigorous global competitor in life science and biotechnology commercialization. Its mission is to create an environment that will stimulate technology transfer and research commercialization, thereby generating economic wealth for the Houston region and making it a global competitor in life science commercialization. BioHouston’s activities provide the greatest leverage in making the Houston region a world-class competitor in the life science industry. Activities are designed to: CONVENE people and organizations that need to come together to make the life science industry in Houston ignite including scientists, intellectual property and product development experts, venture capitalists, pharmaceutical companies and others. COMMUNICATE and interact so that people and organizations can learn from one another, share information and explore opportunities. CATALYZE the discoveries and commercial development so that the true potential of the life science industry in Houston can be unlocked.
The University of Texas at San Antonio
Leto Solutions, Inc.
The University of Texas at San Antonio
Leto Solutions, Inc.