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Innovative and affordable prosthetic arm receives medical approval

Two young London entrepreneurs have secured CE Mark certification for their innovative and affordable new prosthetic limb, which will officially launch in the UK next spring.

Mitt Wearables’ prosthetic arm is soft and adaptable, and for the first time offers a user-friendly and affordable option for children, who rapidly outgrow traditional prostheses, and are rarely offered them.

Three year old Hero from Herefordshire is one of the first people in the world to benefit from a Mitt, which has enabled her to use her right arm to draw and paint with for the first time.

Upper limb differences affect thousands of people across the UK and can occur for a number of reasons, including amputation due to injury or infection, and conditions developed in the womb.

Traditional prosthetic arms are heavy and range in price from £5,000 to £10,000. In contrast, each Mitt will cost less than £500 and, being inspired by sportswear, is lightweight, easy to put on and can be used by both children and adults.

A range of simple to use tools can be attached to each Mitt, allowing users to carry out everyday tasks and hobbies easily. For example, a gripping circle lets users hold items such as a toothbrush, cooking utensils, a paintbrush, skipping rope and hairbrush – tasks requiring some precision, which can be difficult to do with other prostheses.

The entrepreneurs behind Mitt Wearables - Nate Macabuag and Ben Lakey - are supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub, after Nate won the People’s Choice Award at the Hub’s 2018 Launchpad Competition for young entrepreneurs and Ben was awarded an Enterprise Fellowship.

Applications for this year’s Launchpad competition close on 2 September 2019. Nate developed the technology at Imperial College London as part of his third- year Mechanical Engineering project. Soon after this he met Ben, who was studying Medical Device Design and Entrepreneurship at Imperial College, and the pair have been leading Mitt’s development ever since.

Ben Lakey, co-founder of Mitt Wearables, commented: “Listening to users, there is a clear need for affordable, comfortable and functional prostheses that can help people continue to do whatever it is they are passionate about – whether that’s cooking, painting, using an iPad, drumming, or any number of specific tasks.

“Traditional prosthetic arms are not only expensive but tend to be heavy and uncomfortable to wear. We’ve taken a very different route with Mitt. Instead of trying to mimic a hand, we’ve created an arm and a range of simple tools that can be attached and swapped as required. And the feedback we’re receiving has been just amazing.

“The support from the Enterprise Hub has been invaluable, providing us with counsel from not only Britain’s top engineers, but also the practical business skills we needed to launch our company.”

For the past two years, Mitt Wearables has been trialling its product with users, with the official launch planned for next spring. The prosthetic will be available from Mitt’s website, and anyone who is interested in being among the first to get one, can join the beta launch waiting list now at www.wearmitt.com.

Meet Hero – at their 20-week pregnancy scan, Amy and Ben were told they were going to have a daughter with a difference; a one in 32,000 upper limb difference called Symbrachydactyly.

Going against suggestions to terminate the pregnancy from doctors who were worried about other potential complications, Hero was born happy and healthy, but with only one hand. Hero was two and a half when she was first introduced to Mitt Wearables, and the technology has allowed her to learn new skills and enjoy hobbies she previously could not do. This includes painting, helping her parents in the garden with a screwdriver and holding objects in both hands.

For Hero’s parents, Mitt has been exactly what they needed for their daughter, allowing her to take part in lots of activities, without it seeming like a big deal.

The design is customisable and there are many potential applications to help users fulfil everyday tasks.

Last year, Nate won Royal Academy of Engineering support through the Launchpad Competition People’s Choice Award and Ben is an 1851 Royal Commission Enterprise Fellow at the Enterprise Hub. Both are supported by the Enterprise Hub to maximise their potential and help turn their innovation into a sustainable, successful business. With more than 70 million people affected by limb loss around the world, and with 90% of those currently unable to afford any kind of prosthesis, Mitt Wearables’ ambition is to rapidly scale their business.

Elspeth Finch, head judge for Launchpad competition for the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub, commented:
“Nate and Ben are inspiring engineers, and Mitt was a deserving winner of the People’s Choice Award at Launchpad. We’re excited to see their business launch across Europe, and expect it to grow rapidly. They have addressed a clear gap in the market for lower cost, easily customisable prosthetic limbs, and we expect there to be global demand for their design. Mitt is a fantastic example of the best of British engineering innovation.”

Since 2013 the Enterprise Hub has worked to discover, celebrate and support the country’s next generation of brilliant engineering entrepreneurs. One of the ways it does this is through the annual Launchpad competition, taking place for the sixth time this year.

A winner between the ages of 18 and 25 is selected each year as the recipient of the JC Gammon Award, receiving a £15,000 prize, as well access to training, mentoring, and a network of expert advisors necessary to enable them to develop their innovation. 

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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