When Dr. Breanne Everett (pictured) began training to become a plastic surgeon she was shocked by the number of foot problems, including amputations, that she was seeing among diabetic patients. She decided to look for a solution. That led the 32-year-old physician to put her medical training on hold and make the transition into business and technology. She invented a device to alert diabetic patients before a sore spot on their foot turned into a wound that could cause severe complications.
The Calgary company she founded – Orpyx – developed pressure-sensitive insole technology to feed information to patients and prevent the kinds of wounds that can lead to amputations in diabetics with peripheral neuropathy, which can cause numbness in the feet.
The company’s smart-sole foot protection system is attracting attention around the world with ongoing clinical trials in both the U.S. and U.K. The product is available through the company, which calls it the only device of its type on the market.
Still, the transition from the medical world to business was not as easy as it might have been, something Everett says should change to encourage more innovation among doctors.
Despite support, she could not shake the feeling that there was something “taboo” about going from medicine into industry. She calls the experience awkward at times and says that should change.
That was her message at the Converge 2017 conference, which looked at Canada over the next 50 years.
“(Innovation) is something that never came up in medical school, and I had never seen anyone do before,” she said, adding that it is important to get universities “engaged in the dialogue of innovation.”
Everett’s innovative approach to diabetic foot issues has the potential to make a dent in a massive health problem in Canada.
“It is a very large problem. I didn’t realize how big until I started seeing it clinically,” said Everett, who was in Ottawa recently to speak at an innovations conference sponsored by Universities Canada.
There are an estimated three million diabetics in Canada. That number is projected to increase to more than four million by 2020.
Foot ulcers affect between 15 and 25 per cent of people with diabetes. And one in five cases of complications due to foot ulcers result in amputation, said Everett.
Diabetics with neuropathy can often get into a cycle of developing ulcers on their feet that don’t heal well and can lead to complex wounds and, often amputations.
The device Everett’s company produces helps them to gain some control over one of the worst complications of the disease, improve their lifestyles and, crucially, prevent limb loss and even death in some cases.
Patients who wear the insoles get alerts when there is a potentially dangerous pressure point on their foot that they might not feel. They are given instructions – from moving around, to sitting, to removing their footwear and checking to see if there is a foreign object such as a bit of gravel in their shoe.
Everett, who had no prior business background, has since completed an MBA and is completing her training to be a plastic surgeon.
The company name, Orpyx, is an anagram of proxy, she said, because the wearable technology is a proxy for patients’ lost protection sensation in their feet.
For more information, visit https://orpyx.com/
Source: Ottawa Citizen