A previous Experts in Teamwork group has become a startup on a mission to help reduce the problem of tremor in hands.
In the NTNU course Experts in Teamwork (EiT), students from different academic disciplines are put together in groups to solve a problem. Inalto Technologies decided to tackle the problem of tremor – involuntary muscle contractions that cause trembling of body parts.
– Essential tremor is a medical diagnosis, but physiologic tremor is something everyone can experience, for instance when your blood sugar level is low. Tremor is also a symptom of other neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s, explains Simen Liberg Tronsaune, one of the five team members of Inalto Technologies.
– What is the idea behind your startup?
– As of today, there is no medicine that cures essential tremor. The medicines they use often lead to serious side effects. We have talked to patients that avoid taking medicine due to the side effects. Instead of a medicine, we want to reduce tremor with a mechanical device you can wear as a bracelet, Tronsaune continues.
Tremor has greater effect in body parts to which the neural signals have a long way to go, making the hands particularly affected. Imagine having trouble eating and drinking due to the trembling of your hands – that’s the reality for many tremor patients.
– Some tremor patients have spasms in big parts of the body, but we target tremor in hands in the first place because our hands have such an important function in our everyday lives. We like to compare our product to the noise canceling headsets, only we cancel the noise in hands, says Shahrukh Khan, team member of Inalto Technologies.
– Where did you get the idea from?
– The idea was the result after a lot of brainstorming in EiT. We had heard about a special spoon that reduces trembling when using it, but found it peculiar that you had to use your own cutlery when eating. Why not make a more universal product, asks Khan.
The group participated in the EiT village “Biomaterials – Body Parts of the Future” in 2017. Biomaterials are devices that work as aids in the lives of human and makes life simpler. Even a simple rollator was considered a biomaterial, the group informs.
– After our last presentation, one of our professors asked when we were going to launch the product. That inspired us, says Anja Wollan, team member of Inalto Technologies.
The group thought about it over the summer and contacted Spark NTNU. Only two minutes after they had sent the email, they had a Spark mentor.
– How has the process been up until where you are today?
– After getting some guidance from Spark, we analyzed the market. We talked with a lot of end users who suffer from tremor over telephone. Many of the affected mentioned tremor in the right hand as the biggest problem, Khan tells.
A survey from the International Essential Tremor Foundation revealed that about 80 percent of the foundation’s members struggle with writing and 68 percent with drinking. The tremor patients Inalto Technologies contacted were positive to a wearable solution as long as it was not prominent.
– Me and Ida Estenstad are writing our master thesis about the technical part of the solution, so we are two students that work full-time with the startup, Bjarte Mehus Sunde who studies Cybernetics and Robotics says.
The group is in close contact with the Norwegian Parkinson’s disease organization as there is no foundation in Norway devoted to essential tremor. The goal is to be able to work full time with the startup when they finish their studies.
– We are searching for funding to be able to work full time with the startup after our graduation this summer. We are also searching for new people to join our team to get some fresh input, Sunde continues.
– Why should students start their own startup or be a part of one?
– I don’t know if joining a startup is for everyone, but it is really fun being a part of the innovation milieu at NTNU. You meet a lot of interesting people, and I think we are all very excited to see if we can actually do this, Wollan says.
Neither on them had any experience with entrepreneurship beforehand. Today, they are taking the NTNU course in entrepreneurship called Venture Cup. The group is in no doubt an exemplary EiT group, and their interdisciplinarity cover the study programs of Cybernetics and robotics, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, and Industrial Ecology.
– The startup’s vision is to help make the lives of tremor patients better. It is about doing something bigger than yourself and making the world a better place, and that is really motivating, Tronsaune says.
In the following day after this meeting, the group attended Spark’s recruiting event, JASUN (14th of March). At JASUN, they pitched their idea in order to introduce themselves to the crowd. The very same week they participated at Tekna’s Health Technology Conference! You can follow the startup’s busy life through their instagram account.