A disruptive new device which is designed to build strength in the muscles of the feet, including the intrinsic muscles inside the foot, is set to launch following an injection of specialist support from Heriot-Watt University.
Unveiled to coincide with the opening ceremony of the Medical Device Manufacturing Centre, based at Heriot-Watt University, the Novabow device is designed to prevent and treat sporting injuries and a wide range of foot complications and disease.
Research conducted in recent years has revealed the vital role played by the intrinsic foot muscles, demonstrating their role in running injuries, conditions relating to diabetes including neuropathy (foot numbness) and ulcers, alongside more common yet painful complaints like bunions.
A practising dentist from Glasgow is now set to transform foot health with an easy-to-use foot exercise device which builds foot muscle strength. Working with specialist designers and advisers from the Medical Device Manufacturing Centre at Heriot-Watt University, Gerry Farrell will launch the device this summer.
Gerry Farrell, Managing Director of Jomarg Innovation Ltd and inventor of the Novabow foot exercise device, explains:
“In recent years, our understanding of the vital role that intrinsic foot muscles play has grown exponentially. Modern footwear weakens the feet so most of us lack the strength we need for correct balance and exercise. This can contribute to a range of toe deformities, pain, and injury.
“One of the main reasons people stop playing a sport or enjoying exercise is because of pain. Many of the foot exercises available focus on the wrong muscles or don't adequately or easily reach the intrinsic muscles. As an amateur athlete, I wanted to prevent sporting injuries and the results of our pilot studies at Napier and Stirling Universities have been extremely positive. We have also tested the device long-term with Olympic hammer thrower Chris Bennett who was set to have surgery before resolving his knee and back issues using the Novabow device. He now uses it daily.
“The support provided by the MDMC has been invaluable in developing the device for market. As a dentist trying to launch a unique exercise system with clear medical benefits, I've encountered many challenges. The MDMC team at Heriot-Watt University helped me with detailed CAD drawings and provided an introduction to exactly the right kind of specialist plastic manufacturer, something I wouldn't have found without their help. The facility is invaluable for SMEs working in the complex medical device market.”
Significantly, those living with diabetes are at a particularly high risk of complicated foot conditions including neuropathy which leads to severe numbness in the feet. A diabetic with this condition is 20 times more likely to fall than someone without diabetes. This significantly increases the risk of injury, particularly as an individual gets older Foot and ankle exercise programs have significantly improved and even reversed neuropathy.
A second challenge for those living with diabetes is ulceration which, in some cases, can lead to infection and eventual amputation. Research shows that ulcer recurrence is dramatically reduced using foot and ankle exercise from 72% down to just 16% with this type of exercise.
Professor Marc Desmulliez, manager of the Medical Device Manufacturing Centre (MDMC) at Heriot-Watt University, said:
“We can see enormous potential for the Novabow device to address and prevent a wide range of health conditions as well as support both amateur and professional sportspeople to exercise safety. As we mark the official launch of the MDMC at Heriot-Watt University, we hope many more companies like Novabow will access our free specialist medical device manufacturing support.
“The MDMC has been established to help SMEs like Jomarg Innovation to source the right manufacturers for their product, to fully utilise our £2M lab equipment with expert guidance and to navigate the challenging path of medical device regulation. Our support is free to Scottish SMEs, demonstrating our institution's commitment to accelerating life sciences innovation in Scotland and beyond.”
Commenting on the opening of the Medical Device Manufacturing Centre at Heriot-Watt University, Business Minister Ivan McKee said:
“The Scottish Government welcomes today's opening of the Medical Device Manufacturing Centre, which we supported through our Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund to stimulate innovation from smaller businesses.
“The Centre can help make Scotland's healthcare more innovative in addressing urgent clinical needs, in line with ambitions for business in our National Strategy for Economic Transformation.
“The Centre is supporting smaller companies and start-ups as they overcome the challenges of prototyping and testing while meeting stringent NHS regulatory requirements. I look forward to seeing what further innovations emerge and how these help improve healthcare quality for, potentially, millions worldwide.”
The Novabow Foot Exercise System holds patents for Europe and the USA. It has been supported by a range of collaborators including the Medical Device Manufacturing Centre based at Heriot-Watt University, Scottish Enterprise, Napier and Stirling Universities, Interface and Business Gateway (Glasgow City Council).