Research News

Gruben’s KIINCE among latest startups to ‘graduate’ from UW business accelerator

July 13, 2016
by David Tenenbaum, University Communications

A second group of companies formed with assistance from UW-Madison’s Discovery to Product (D2P) has “graduated” from a program designed to advance innovations based on research on campus.

Kreg Gruben
And among the startups receiving this recognition is KIINCE, which produced a stroke rehabilitation device. This company is the brainchild ​of the School of Education’s Kreg Gruben, an associate professor with the Department of Kinesiology.

Additional fledglings are working in such areas as growing brain cells and virtual reality, says D2P director John Biondi.

D2P was formed as a partnership between UW–Madison and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) in 2014. The program serves as an access point for university students, faculty and staff with business ideas, and also as a business accelerator inside UW–Madison.

“We’re different from a commercial accelerator as our projects are usually at an earlier stage, since we only accept projects that have not yet formed a company,” Biondi says. “And UW–Madison folks have classes to attend or teach, labs to run and patients to see, so we can’t run the typical six-week, 12-hour-a-day accelerator. Instead, we put them through a structured workshop and then work with them intensely, one-on-one, to do what is needed to mature the project and get it ready for funding.”

UW-Madison is noted for life science research, Biondi says. “Most accelerators won’t touch that kind of project because they have so many complications related to FDA regulations and insurance reimbursement. But we work with complex projects, which include life sciences and engineering-heavy innovations and technologies.”

This device, made by the startup KIINCE, precisely
measures the dynamics of walking to help restore motor
function after stroke. (Photo courtesy of KIINCE)
Gruben’s KIINCE is one of seven new companies being formed. These add to five previously incorporated.

During a 22-year career studying the mechanics and control of leg function, Gruben pinpointed why stroke patients have difficulty walking.

“We have discovered muscle coordination patterns that correlate with how people walk after a stroke and predict which types of therapy will work,” he says. “Frequently, the ratio of muscle use is slightly off. The compensating behaviors are easy to see, so therapists tend to focus on them rather than the underlying incoordination.”

Gruben used D2P funding to build a prototype neuromuscular retraining machine that precisely measures the mechanics of walking and gives corrective feedback. KIINCE is finalizing the product and beginning to execute its strategy to drive clinical adoption.

To learn about all of this year’s group of success stories, check out this University Communications news story.