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Recruiter supports medtech business growth

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A startup recruitment business is supporting the development of life-changing inventions in the neuro sector by sourcing the high-level talent to drive their ventures forward. 

Hanison Green has established a niche as the only recruiter dedicated to neuromodulation and in its first eight months of trading has already helped globally-significant, early-stage businesses including ONWARD, the Swiss-based venture which hopes to launch devices within the next four years to enable paralysed people to regain the ability to move and walk. 

With a specialism in supporting startups within neuromodulation, Hanison Green is working globally from its London base, with a primary focus of supporting companies in the US and Europe. 

Founded by Lindsay Hartland, formerly a partner in global recruitment business SThree with over 18 years’ experience of permanent STEM leadership recruiting, he decided to form Hanison Green during the pandemic with a mission to ‘do recruitment differently’. 

And the business is quickly building its reputation in neuromodulation through bringing in key new figures to leadership teams at strategically important times, maximising their chances of long-term success. 

For Lindsay, while establishing a business in a new and unknown sector mid-pandemic was admittedly a risk, it’s one he was eager to take. 

“If you’d have asked me eight months ago what neuromodulation was, I would have looked at you blankly, I didn’t know – but I’m a fast learner and we are already very well-connected in this exciting space of medtech” he says. 

“I’ve always been really into tech and I’ve recruited in the STEM field for years, and medtech is seeing such huge and rapid development. 

“It’s an area which has so much meaning to so many people. I’ve never worked in an industry space where people care so much about the end result, and I find this hugely inspiring.

“My dad had a car crash many years ago, and while he has recovered, he has constant back problems – I’ve found out that neuromodulation could be a treatment that could help. 

“This technology can be genuinely life-changing, and it’s still so new that we’re only now starting to understand the possibilities. The potential is limitless.”

In addition to its specialism, Hanison Green’s approach is one that also makes it stand out from the crowd. Keen not to be regarded as a ‘typical recruiter’, its proactive approach is seeing them solve the recruitment problems businesses face, often before they have realised it themselves. 

“We have a very pinpointed approach, we aim to be incredibly relevant to the company we approach and are very strategic,” says Lindsay. 

“When I approached ONWARD, I had already researched their work and saw they were several years away from commercialisation, and also noticed they didn’t have a strategic commercial leader in place as yet. Anticipating that this was something likely to be under consideration, I approached them with someone I knew could help them prepare for market. 

“It’s normal for CEOs to wear many hats within the business they are leading, particularly within a startup environment, but that takes them away from what that should be doing. 

“We realise that and through our strategic approach, we can anticipate a leader they will be needing to guide them through their next stages of growth, and we provide that talent proactively.” 

Lindsay’s highly strategic approach also extends to sourcing the candidates for these businesses.

“Generally, the talent we find is headhunted – very, very rarely are they on jobs boards, or engaged with other recruiters. Our goal is to work with the best talent, irrespective of whether they are actively on the market or not,” he says. 

“I’ll tend to look for someone who has been with the same company for around four to eight years, with several promotions achieved during this time. It shows loyalty, that they’re serious about their career and are good at what they do. For me, this profile already tells me they are likely a great candidate.

“Recruitment is often seen as a numbers game, and admittedly doesn’t have a great reputation. It’s seen as an area where the recruiter throws hundreds of CVs out there in the hope something sticks, where candidates are farmed out all over the marketplace – but we want to be known for our relevance, and for the calibre of the talent we represent.” 

A new and dynamic business, Hanison Green was set up during the pandemic at a time when Lindsay had the opportunity to think about the future for his family, and to see where the journey of setting up his own business would take him. 

And for Lindsay, he’s happy to let that journey continue, and be guided by the opportunities and the marketplace. 

“I’ve come from a corporate world where it’s all about business planning, growth, profit, all kinds of stuff like that. Everything is mapped out and fixed, and everything has to get signed-off – but I’m now really excited about the unknown,” he says. 

“We’re occupying a great space in the market and will continue to build that further. We will not deviate from neuromodulation but beyond that, I don’t really have a plan for the future. 

“I’m back to frontline, hands-on recruitment, which I had been out of for some years through being a partner, and I think in my older age too and having kids, I felt the need to become a role model to them, and to put my experience to better use.

“To work in something as big as this, where the end result is saving and improving the quality of people’s lives, is very meaningful indeed.” 

Tech

Revolutionary neurorehab app begins national roll-out

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A tech platform credited with revolutionising rehabilitation for the neuro sector goes live today as the first step in its national roll-out. 

Neuro ProActive has been created to enable a fully multi-disciplinary approach to rehabilitation, covering both inpatient and community care and involving patients and their families in the process.

The app – which supports the spectrum of neurological conditions, from brain injury to stroke, dementia and Long COVID – enables greater cohesion between therapists through its end-to-end message and video calling encryption, which allows remote services and patient monitoring to be done via one single platform. 

Neuro ProActive – the successor to the award-winning Stroke Active – has been in development for more than three years and goes live at UCLH Queen Square today. It will be used in its Upper Limb Neurorehabilitation Programme. 

The app is set to launch into six NHS Trusts initially, with national and international expansion planned in the near future.

Professor Nick Ward, clinical lead on the Upper Limb Programme, has been a key advisor to Ian Pearce on the development of both Stroke Active and Neuro ProActive. 

Ian, whose father had a stroke in 2017, was inspired to develop a platform to increase co-ordination in care to help families like his. 

Whilst having no background in healthcare or tech development, Ian created Stroke Active – which was named Innovation of the Year Award at the 2019 European Neuro Convention, in recognition of the role it played in revolutionising communication between stroke professionals and promoting patient self-management – and has since created Neuro ProActive.

Working with healthcare software developers L2S2, Neuro ProActive has been created as an entirely separate platform which has been built from scratch to be entirely fit for purpose for the whole neuro sector.

“After three years of consultations with patients, families and AHPs, it’s great to see Neuro ProActive deployed at UCLH,” says Ian. 

“Nick and his team were involved in the platform’s development from an early stage. The feedback we’re now getting from therapy teams all over the UK is extremely positive. 

“The pandemic has severely curtailed the provision of rehab services and Neuro ProActive helps NHS Trusts adhere to NICE guidelines on patient care in a post-COVID world.”

Speaking to NR Times about its role in neuro care, Ian says: “Frequently, there is a gap between inpatient and outpatient – early supported discharge too often is just early discharge, you hear stories of people waiting six weeks before their therapy starts, which makes things so much more difficult further down the line.

“But by using the platform, we have enabled patients to connect with their community rehab team. We work across all six disciplines – neurophysio, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, diet, arts and neuropsychology – and the whole MDT can contribute to the dashboard in real time.

“Enabling patients to have the ability to self-manage, while also including family members in the rehabilitation process, is so important. Through using the app, everyone can be involved in the process. Each patient has their own message board too, so can instantly get in touch with their team.”

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How the C-Brace is opening up a new world of possibilities

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The C-Brace is big news in the progression of Orthotic treatment for neurological conditions. The integration of microprocessor technology into a carbon fibre Knee Ankle Foot Orthosis (KAFO’s) opens up a whole new world of possibilities and mobility for patients dependent on full leg support to stand and walk.

As standard, KAFO users are supplied with locked knee KAFOs. This is where the knee is locked in a straight position throughout their gait cycle, but manually unlocked to allow the user to sit down with their knee flexed. The use of a locked KAFO brings about stability of the knee for users with reduced lower leg muscles strength, when walking on level ground.

However, it also results in the development of multiple gait compensations for the user to progress through the gait cycle with a locked knee. Compensations include; hip hitching on the contralateral side, circumduction during swing phase, and vaulting of the contralateral ankle.

Gait can therefore be slower, require more metabolic energy and increase mechanical stress on the sound leg. Walking on slopes and stairs with a locked knee joint is very difficult and often situations avoided by KAFO users.

An alternative option to the locked KAFO is a Stance Control Orthosis (SCO). In a similar way to the locked KAFO, the knee joint is locked straight during stance phase, but unlocks at terminal stance to allow the knee to flex through swing phase, providing a more natural gait pattern and reduction in compensatory motions to achieve ground clearance.

SCOs require considerable confidence from the user, a consistent step length and are again limited on slopes, stairs and uneven ground. In order to prevent accidental disengagement of the knee lock on challenging surfaces, the user often manually locks the SCO.

Where the C-Brace comes into its own is the significant control available in both stance and swing phase of gait. The system provides stability for the foot and ankle, and stabilises the knee in the sagittal plane with the hydraulic unit replicating the eccentric and isometric muscle contraction of the quadriceps and hamstrings.

It controls both the stance and swing phases of gait with microprocessor sensor technology that can adapt to everyday situations in real time. The technology normalises gait by allowing controlled knee flexion during weight bearing, giving patients the ability to safely navigate quick stops, walk on uneven terrain, and descend slopes, curbs and stairs step over step.

The C-Brace calculates the orientation and movement of the system in space in three dimensions, using this information to control the flexion and extension valves of a hydraulic unit that provide varying levels of resistance to knee flexion. In turn, this allows for physiological knee flexion during loading response, absorbing the shock of weight transfer during heel strike.

In a locked KAFO or SCO, that shock is directly transferred to the pelvis and lumbar spine. Additionally, the C-Brace provides microprocessor swing control that adapts to the varying walking speeds of the patient. It does not require consistent step lengths to function as SCOs do.

Variable step length means a patient can increase or decrease walking speed and length of steps based on the instantaneous activity/mobility needs, making walking safer in unfamiliar or dangerous scenarios like crossing roads.

The C-Brace is also able to provide assistance descending stairs and slopes, allowing step-over-step gait, mimicking the contraction of the quadriceps for lowering the body down a stair or slope. The C-Brace considerably reduces stress to the sound limb in unilateral users, and allows bilateral users to descend stairs and slopes and ambulate on uneven terrain.

Additional features of the C-Brace include:

Stumble recovery: The microprocessor swing control of the C-Brace provides a stumble recovery feature that activates high knee flexion resistance during swing phase extension, in preparation for stance phase, allowing the patient to fully load their orthosis and stabilise the body in case of a stumble.

Intuitive Stance Function: This feature allows the patient to stand in a safe and relaxed manner with a flexed knee without the threat of knee collapse, and automatically switches back in to ambulation mode, turning off the blocked knee flexion when the patient moves. This feature allows the patient to unload the sound leg and rest while securely standing on level or non-level surfaces.

Sitting/Kneeling Function: The C-Brace assists the patient when sitting down and standing up from a chair by providing resistance to flexion or extension.

This adds an extra degree of safety and reduces stress to the upper extremities and the sound limb. The microprocessor automatically detects when the patient begins to sit down, adjusting the hydraulic resistance against bending during the transition to sitting.

Allowing the patient to sit in a controlled manner and at a controlled rate. When standing up from a seated position, the C-Brace blocks knee flexion as soon as the knee reaches a flexion angle of 45° or less, allowing the patient to reposition the foot and load the orthosis, for improved leverage to stand. The kneeling down function allows the patient to kneel down safely with controlled flexion of the knee joint, supported by increased flexion resistance.

Activity specific modes/Freeze mode: The C-Brace is programmable for activity specific needs of the patient in addition to ambulation. For instance, resistance can be reduced to a minimum for cycling, or a flexed knee joint position can be fixed for activities such as Yoga. The user, on their personal C-brace App, can control these modes.

So how can you know if the C-Brace might be right for your patient? The first stage is a thorough assessment, considering both the indications and contraindications of the system.

Indications:

  • Flaccid Paralysis or partial paresis of the lower limb
  • Quadriceps deficiency leading to poor knee control during stance phase

The patient may present with regular ‘giving way’ of the knee, reporting stumbles or falls when walking on flat, graduated or uneven surfaces. The C-Brace may be appropriate for a number of neurological conditions, including but not limited to:

  • Spinal cord injury between L1 and L5
  • Polio
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neuromuscular disease
  • Muscular atrophy or Traumatic paresis

Essential requirements for the use of the C-Brace:

  • The user must be able to stabilise their trunk and stand without support.
  • The muscles strength of the hip extensors and flexors must allow the controlled swing of the affected leg, or this must be possible through compensatory hip/trunk movement.

Contraindications of the C-Brace:

  • Swing phase initiation is not possible
  • Insufficient trunk stability
  • Severe spasticity
  • Knee or hip flexion contracture of more than 10°
  • Non correctable genu varus/valgus greater than 10°
  • Body weight less than 40Kg or greater than 125Kg
  • Height <140cm
  • Leg length discrepancy >15cm
  • Fluctuating Oedema or severe skin irritation that precludes the use of an orthosis

The C-Brace Dynamic Test Orthosis (DTO) is a trial orthosis, which features the C-Brace joint unit. The DTO can be set up to each individual user and programmed to their individual gait requirements, allowing users to test the function of the orthosis within the clinical setting.

The DTO can also provide valuable evidence to the function and benefits of the C-Brace for payers. The DTO can be trialled with support from the Ottobock Orthotic Academy Clinician or through Ottobock’s clinical partner Dorset Orthopaedic.

For more information about the C-Brace contact Ottobock or Dorset Orthopaedic through their website enquiry pages: www.ottobock.co.uk or www.dorset-ortho.com.

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Word-reading therapy app launches globally

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An app designed to support people who have acquired reading impairments or aphasia due to stroke, brain injury or dementia, has launched globally. 

In its first week, iReadMore, with its unique and engaging approach to single word reading therapy, was downloaded in every continent of the world except Antarctica.

The self-led app is for individuals to use at home, which is proving especially relevant during the pandemic and ongoing lockdown restrictions around the world, with many people pursuing their own therapy options. 

iReadMore has been developed by researchers in the Neurotherapeutics Group at University College London, working alongside people living with aphasia, to bring to fruition a project that was started in 2007 by Dr Zoe Woodhead and Professor Richard Wise. 

Initially, the project was to develop a therapy for pure alexia, a rare reading impairment, but the team soon realised the potential for the therapy to cover a wider range of reading impairments caused by stroke, brain injury and dementia.

Clinical trial data on iReadMore has demonstrated an average 8.7 per cent improvement in reading accuracy on trained words for people with aphasia. This progress was maintained at a three-month follow-up.

“Through practice-based intervention, the reading network can improve. The basic therapy hasn’t changed, but with iReadMore, we’ve made it more fun and easy to use at home,” says Dr Woodhead.

“It uses repetition-based practice which is very specific in its terms. It deals with word recognition in reading.” 

“For example, it’s not going to fully reverse the strength of a person’s dementia, but it can help their reading accuracy and speed,” says Professor Alex Leff, group leader of the Neurotherapeutics Group. 

“By using iReadMore, it will improve reading, but it won’t improve speech in the same way as if you practice tennis, you won’t necessarily get better at table tennis or squash.”

“We’ve had a hugely positive response since taking a step into the unknown with our launch,” says Tom Langford, a PhD student whose studies are focused on the development of iReadMore. 

“We co-designed the app with people with aphasia, and added in features that would make the app not only effective, but also enjoyable to use.

“The most important thing is that it is widely accessible and relevant to those who need it, and it’s been such a rewarding experience to develop this app which is already delivering results.” 

The app is currently available through Google Play, but its impending launch for Apple devices is set to raise its profile further on an international level. 

The team will continue researching and developing the therapy using data collected through the app to enable them to refine the app even further.

One key distinction between existing app-based therapies and iReadMore is the ability to receive feedback. 

“Many other apps don’t give feedback, but without that, how are you supposed to know how you’re progressing, and whether you are at all?,” says Professor Leff. 

“However, we have been very mindful that for some people, they’re already acutely aware of their impairment and don’t always want a daily reminder of it. So rather than having progress graphs automatically popping up, users can decide whether to check them,” adds Tom. 

Despite the challenges of the final stages of iReadMore’s development coinciding with the national lockdown, the team were able to continue their work while enabling new digital capabilities among its participants. 

“We could no longer have groups of people testing the app at UCL so we sent devices for people to test it at home in the environment they’d be using it anyway, so it was a really realistic way of testing” says Tom. 

“It helped us to realise that we can widen the scope of our work beyond London, we could take on a national dimension to our research and that’s something that we will continue to do where possible. 

“For some of our participants, they didn’t have access to a device prior to us sending them one – so hopefully we’ve also played our role in helping them to have access to technology during a time when that was often the only means of communication.”

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