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Allentown company invents Air Bags for Your hips

Published on Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A New Way to Prevent Injuries from Falls for the Elderly

Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities and especially Memory Care and Alzheimers Units have an option now for helping prevent broken hips should a resident fall. Medical Update's course for CEU's on "How to Prevent Falls" has a section on how a research facility for Alzheimer's care used entire body padding to keep Alzheimer's resident's moving safely on their wandering patterns up and down the halls. Medical Update's new Falls course will mention this new technique and give follow up information on how facilities caring for the elderly are finding this cushion type air bag helpful. Earn your CEU's while you keep up with this latest invention.

Allentown Company Invents Air Bags for Your Hips

Hip fractures are a huge problem in the United States. Each year, one in three Americans over the age 65 falls, resulting in 300,000 hip fractures annually. A quarter of them will die within a year as a result of their injuries. Another quarter will never live independently again. The direct and long-term care costs of hip fractures is estimated at tens of billions of dollars annually.

And so, even before Lakatos finished his first round of fundraising, he found himself facing a very unusual kind of challenge for the head of an incipient startup: He would have to make the biggest speech of his life.

 

 

TEDMED, the health and medicine edition of the popular TED — technology, entertainment and design — conference, extended him an invitation to give a talk. 

 

 

"It was terrifying," Lakatos said.

Backstage, he anxiously recited his speech, which before committing to memory, he had fine-tuned over the course of countless rewrites and edits. Finally, his name was called; it was his turn to step before the spotlight and cameras.

He began with an anecdote about a California automobile driver who survived a 150-foot fall off a cliff.

 

 

"She was able to walk away from that car accident because of air bags that protected her in the hundred milliseconds before she needed them," he told the audience. Then he asked, "Why do we have to be in the cage of an automobile to have the same level of protection?"

That was September 2014, eight years after the Christmas party where Lakatos met Philadelphia trauma surgeon Robert Buckman and their company, ActiveProtective, began to take shape. Lakatos and Buckman, who worked with Lakatos' wife, struck up a conversation, and Buckman told him about his dream of creating a wearable hip air bag.

Lakatos was then working in sales for a software company, but he had previously helped launch two startups, including one that he sold, and he was immediately intrigued by Buckman's concept.

The next year, Buckman launched ActiveProtective with Lakatos' input. And in the years that followed, Lakatos, an engineer, devoted more and more time to the project, helping design prototypes and to file for patents. He quit his job and joined ActiveProtective full time in 2012, becoming the company's CEO.

By then, his grandfather was well into his 10th decade and because of a degenerative visual impairment was at high risk of a hip injury. He recalled his grandfather telling him in his Hungarian accent: "Drew, I need it. Get this thing done."

One of the first backers of ActiveProtective was Sacha Levy of New York, a member of the New York Angels investor group. He said he looks for ideas that are emotionally fulfilling, intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding, and the wearable hip air bag was all three.

"I rarely get a chance to invest in something as an angel that, if it works, will save tens of thousands of lives a year," he said.

As an orthopedic surgeon at St. Luke's University Health Network, Dr. Jennifer Banzhof is all too familiar with the hazards of falling and hip fractures. Women, who are prone to osteoporosis, are particularly vulnerable, as is anyone who takes medications that impair balance.

"It's a big deal, especially as baby boomers are aging," she said.

During his TEDMED talk, Lakatos explained how wearable hip air bags would work. The bags would be contained in a belt worn over clothing. Clipping the two ends of the belt together would activate motion sensors — the same technology now common in cellphones — that could differentiate between a fall and normal movement such as sitting. And in the case of a fall, the air bags would deploy from the belt. The wearer's sides and rear would be protected within 60 milliseconds by a 2-inch-thick air cushion.

So powerful is the TED brand, which has been promulgated by the TED Radio Hour on National Public Radio, that Lakatos' TEDMED invitation was enough to propel ActiveProtective through its first round of fundraising.

That round, along with a second round that has just closed, has brought in more than $2 million, according to Lakatos.

Also among the backers is Joel D. Gilley, president of Promus Financial in Allentown. Like Levy, Gilley too liked the idea of pumping his money into something that could help others.

"Whenever you invest, you hope for a financial return, and I certainly do," he explained. "But the more I heard about this opportunity from Drew, the more excited [I became] about being part of something transformative."

Lakatos runs ActiveProtective from a downtown Allentown office space provided by Gilley. In addition to Lakatos, the company has four employees, all of whom work remotely.

Also collaborating on the project are about a dozen other people who work for the three companies — an air bag manufacturer, a software developer and an industrial designer — with whom ActiveProtective is partnering.

Lakatos said he would like to base as much of the company's operations in the Lehigh Valley as possible — for example, final assembly, packaging, shipping and customer support. The prospect of homegrown jobs was an extra selling point for Gilley.

The belts are due to undergo extensive testing over the next year in preparation for the start of sales in 2017, according to Lakatos.

Sadly, however, that won't come soon enough to help Lakatos' grandfather. He died at the age of 97 this year, two weeks after falling and fracturing his hip.

"It infuriates me because these things are so preventable," Lakatos said.

 The Morning Call

  •  by  Sam Kennedy
  • August 2, 2015
  • Allentown Company invents air bags for your helps
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