Kiio, Defense Department Team Up to Advance Tendon Disease Tech

[Updated 7/21/17 5:40 p.m. See below.Kiio, a developer of software and hardware to help patients understand and adhere to rehabilitative exercise programs, says it has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Defense to study and attempt to improve tendon disease treatments.

Madison, WI-based Kiio says it’s working with the DoD and multiple healthcare providers to develop and validate a new program for treating patients with chronic tendinopathy. Patients with the disease experience pain in their tendons—the connective tissue between muscle and bone—when exercising or performing other vigorous movements. Tendinitis, the inflammation of one or more tendons, is a form of tendinopathy.

Kiio and its partners received $1.3 million in funding from the DoD to support the project, which includes a multiyear 318-patient clinical study. The study leaders recently enrolled the first patient, Kiio says.

Chronic tendinopathy is among the most common musculoskeletal diseases, says John Wilson. He’s a physician and professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and is directing the recently launched study, Kiio says.

Kiio says the goal of the collaboration is to create a “protocol” that combines software and a sensor developed by the company that can measure force. The software would be designed to measure tendon strength and calculate complex muscle performance metrics, Kiio says.

“Our goal is to provide a fast, cost-effective, portable protocol to inform treatment, determination of work-readiness, and prediction of injury for service members as well as the general population,” Dave Grandin, co-founder and CEO of Kiio, says in a press release.

In addition to Wilson and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kiio’s collaborators on the project include the University of Miami. A team there, led by physical therapy professor Kathryn Roach, will handle data analysis and modeling.

“We will be analyzing this data to establish a normative database and generate a decision-making algorithm that can be utilized not only in treatment, but also in risk assessment and injury prevention,” Roach says.

Kiio has also been working with another physical therapy professor—Patrick Grabowski, of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse—to develop the technology for tendinopathy patients.

Mark Felcyn, vice president of sales and marketing at Kiio, says the DoD is interested in improving treatments for tendinopathy because it is very prevalent among service members, and in turn costly to the department. [Updated with comments from Mark Felcyn.]

“Non-combat musculoskeletal injuries are the leading cause of limited duty days and disability in the United States military,” Felcyn says. Chronic hand and feet injuries result in more than 5 million limited duty days each year, he says.

Felcyn says that 92 of the 318 trial participants will be patients diagnosed with tendinopathy, while the other subjects will help establish a normative database. Participants in the trial are not limited to active military personnel, he says.

In March, Kiio raised $600,000 as part of a debt funding round. The company has raised nearly $5.5 million since launching in 2011.

Kiio has about a dozen customers, Grandin said earlier this year. They include healthcare providers, insurers, and other types of organizations, such as the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball.

Early on, Kiio focused mostly on hardware—both its sensors and high-tech exercise cables. While its emphasis has shifted to software in recent years, the DoD project seems to suggest that sensors will continue to play a significant role in Kiio’s business.

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