We had the good fortune of connecting with Nick Housley, PhD, DPT, PT and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nick, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Motus Nova is an Atlanta based healthcare technology company that helps survivors of neurologic injuries improve the use of their arms and hands and improve their walking abilities. To do this, we developed robotic devices that are deployed in the home. Our robotic devices, which we call the Motus Hand and Motus Foot, guide survivors through a neurologic rehabilitation treatment called repetitive task practice, shown to be one of the best options to improve function.
Motus Nova founder and CEO David Wu and I have been working on rehabilitation robotics for the better part of a decade now and are integrating all we have learned through our scientific studies, clinical trials and business experiences to deliver not only the first FDA class 1 robotic device with the ability to actively assistance a stroke survivor in their home but also to ensure that it can scale with the exceptionally large population of individuals in the US who need additional treatment.
For a sense of scope, there are around 7 million stroke survivors in the US and with approximately 800,000 new diagnoses each year, it stands to reason that anyone reading this knows someone affected by this devastating injury. While modern medicine has improved over the past few decades, resulting in improved survival, the consequences of this progress cannot be understated. To date, stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability across the US, resulting in persistent functional impairments in nearly 4.5 million individuals. That figure does not even account for the countless indirect effects distributed across family, friends, care partners and the community as a whole.
This state of affairs is entirely unacceptable. We have a different vision for the future of survivors of neurologic injuries. Instead, we see a world where survivors have no impairments, it’s our moonshot.
However, many barriers prevent survivors from reaching their maximum medical recovery. For example: transportation limitations, geographic restrictions to qualified providers, scheduling conflicts, dependence on care partners, and financial constraints are just a few critical rate limited steps that must be overcome. However, all of these factors pale in comparison to one foundational element that, if neglected, will prevent any hope of achieving our goal. That is, delivery of high quality, evidence-based treatment. While it seems simple enough, survivors of neurologic injuries rarely get the adequate care the evidence suggests would maximize their potential. To really emphasize this point, let me briefly summarize the chief finding of a seminal study that quantified the amount of therapy individuals received during typical neurorehabilitation sessions. The authors found that on average only 32 movements (the active ingredient in neurorehabilitation) were performed per session (Lang et al. 2009). This is a fraction of the 400 to 600 movements per day we know are needed to induce positive changes (Nudo et al. 1996). So, despite knowing how much medicine to deliver, survivors of neurologic injury rarely get what is referred to as a sufficient dose. It is no wonder then why outcomes are so poor.
Motus Nova’s mission is to overcome these barriers by offering high quality stroke rehabilitation from the comfort and convenience of a survivor’s home.
For me, this mission is personal, as I am a survivor of traumatic brain injury that stopped me from racing bikes professionally back in 2012. Thankfully, I can still ride and train but recovery for many others is far more protracted. That seminal moment in my life turned out to be serendipitous though as it set me on a path to become a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy where I developed specialty training to treat neurologic disorders with a focus on the use of robotics and mixed reality. It was those early years where I met David and we worked on the clinical trials testing and validating what are now the Motus Hand and Motus Foot robotic devices. I went on to earn my PhD, focusing on neurophysiology of the sensorimotor system, from Georgia Tech, deep insights that are now being integrating into our current robotic systems for stroke recovery at home
Nudo, R. J., Wise, B. M., SiFuentes, F., & Milliken, G. W. (1996). Neural substrates for the effects of rehabilitative training on motor recovery after ischemic infarct. Science, 272(5269), 1791-1794.
Lang, C. E., MacDonald, J. R., Reisman, D. S., Boyd, L., Kimberley, T. J., Schindler-Ivens, S. M., … & Scheets, P. L. (2009). Observation of amounts of movement practice provided during stroke rehabilitation. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 90(10), 1692-1698.
What should our readers know about your business?
Motus Nova differs from other healthcare technology companies that are trying to improve function for survivors of neurologic injury. We recognized early on that repeating the same playbook of developing an overly complex and costly system, while it may help a small subset of individuals in a clinic or lab, would preclude it from making meaningful impact on the 4.5 million American’s in need. Instead, we focused on developing a system and model that has financial flexibility and ease of use at its core, while conserving clinically validated, evidence based treatments. Moreover, we were also the first to make meaningful progress toward a full Telehealth deployment. While this has notable advantages for patients trying to improve, it also gives providers, such as Occupational (OT) and Physical Therapists (PT) the ability to work with their patients remotely. As a result of our technology and capabilities, we developed the first telerehabilitation robotics platform that helps providers have a surrogate for their hands in the field, a factor that is lacking in classic Telehealth modes of delivery. This recent development helped providers remain in close connection with their patients during COVID-19 lockdowns and is increasing the equitable delivery of skilled therapy services going forward.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Being based in the Northeast Atlanta area we are so fortunate to have easy access to the Buford highway food scene. The Buford highway corridor offers an exceptional mixture of high-quality food experiences such as the Sichuan-centric menu at Chong Qing Hot Pot, Bahel a small Ethiopian restaurant, the Malaysian diner Mamak, and Bismillah Café that serves halal menu of Indian food. The great thing is most of these spots offer low-key eating but are a must for visitors to the Atlanta area. As an outdoors enthusiast, I am a bit spoiled with what Atlanta has to offer so close to the center of a major metropolitan area. Sope Creek and Cochran Shoals parks offers a great way to have a leisurely walk near the Chattahoochee River or a more strenuous hike or mountain bike around the hills of northwest Atlanta.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Motus Nova would not exist today if I did not have David Wu’s innovative mind directing our path toward our central goal. As a scientists and clinician, I share this directive, but David’s ability to integrate critical economic and project management elements are the main reason why Motus Nova has served thousands of survivors of neurologic injury across the country and why we continue to grow today. So much of our early time prior to Motus Nova was spent developing, testing and validating these therapeutic approach’s efficacy in the clinic and in the lab but like many other robotic approaches, these technologies could have been resigned to stay one-off investigational devices in a lab, without David’s understanding of the real-world constraints that our goal requires to achieve.