Lite Run started at a swim meet.
While watching their daughters compete, John Hauck and Doug Johnson were discussing how John’s knee pain was impacting his love of running. With John’s medical device background and Doug’s product development expertise, they started envisioning ways to displace John’s weight. Realizing John’s desire to run pain-free was not unique to him, their poolside chat quickly turned into a serious product-innovation discussion.
Mark Johnson, a hands-on machinist, and Odd Osland, a designer, soon joined the project, with the team first testing designs in John’s home swimming pool. The water resistance, however, made it difficult to run, so brainstorming turned to a plan to displace John’s weight using air pressurized pants. The team used aspects of spacesuit design developed by NASA to make the pants, allowing the wearer to have a full range of motion.
The founders incorporated Lite Run in 2014, obtained seed funding, started growing their team, and began developing their first commercial product: a gait trainer. Lite Run moved into University Enterprise Laboratories (UEL) in 2016 to accelerate commercialization and build and qualify its first units. The collaborative nature of the UEL innovation community has also provided support and feedback.
Lite Run has a team of talented and passionate people. John Hauck, developing medical devices since 1983, is president. Doug Johnson, 3M product development specialist for 25 years, is the CTO, Mark Johnson is a co-founder and uses his 29 years’ experience as a machinist to create specialized parts and assemble the walker. Pete Bobgan, Odd Osland, and Bruce Wigness are engineers that designed and integrated numerous custom parts for the walker and perform quality control tests to ensure that the system is safe. The team worked with clothing designers to develop and manufacture the pants. Many other mentors, parts fabricators, clothing designers and health care professionals and researchers, such as therapist Charlotte Brentesson, DPM, have helped develop Lite Run.
The Gait Trainer is helping patients with severe brain or spinal injuries walk again. 2.5 million people in the U.S. each year go through gait training to restore mobility. Currently, physical therapists use a harness to help the patient stand and walk. This is uncomfortable for patients and physically taxing for physical therapists. In contrast, the Gait Trainer helps patients stand from a wheelchair or bedside using a sit-to-stand technology. The Lite Run system is also fall-proof, making physical therapy safer and providing the physical therapist the freedom to focus on gait therapy.
Lite Run strives to become the standard of care for helping low-mobility patients walk again. Lite Run performed a clinical trial at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, MN. The Gait Trainer significantly reduced the physical burden for the physical therapist and was reported as easy to use. One of the trial outcomes saw the smallest physical therapist able to treat the largest patient. Moreover, the Gait Trainer makes it easier for patients to walk, allowing them to start physical therapy sooner and have longer sessions.
So far, Lite Run has received multiple accolades, such as the Small Business Innovation Research grant and the Spine Technology award for the most innovative non-invasive spinal therapy. In the future, they will be expanding the line of Gait Trainers to a home version now in development.
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