Being science-minded, it didn’t take long after Santa Clarita native Pier Mantovani’s father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for him to begin searching for ways to help.
Soon, he’d turned that search into an actual device and co-founded Evolution Devices to rehabilitate walking for people living with neurologically based partial walking paralysis.
“It was a slow progression, so over time, he started getting worse and worse,” Mantovani said of his father’s MS.
As Mantovani graduated from Saugus High School and began attending College of the Canyons, he started pursuing his interest in cognitive science, which he noted was heavily influenced by his dad’s condition.
Then, after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, Mantovani went to UC San Fransico, where he began to research neurostimulators — around the same time his father really began to struggle walking.
It was in 2017 that Mantovani began to work with his co-founders on side projects “for fun,” he said, and they built their first device.
The EvoWalk was initially focused on rehabilitating “foot drop,” where patients who’ve experienced neurological conditions, such as strokes, MS, or Parkinson’s, are unable to lift their foot due to muscle weakness or nerve damage, which frequently causes them to fall.
By applying electrical stimulation to the lower leg, EvoWalk acts as an artificial nerve that bypasses the non-functioning nerve responsible for lifting the foot and toes, according to Evolution Devices.
After getting some success with his father and a few others, Mantovani began to realize how many people they could help.
Mantovani’s father became their No. 1 tester, helping them to work out the kinks, as they worked to improve the device, and his success has been gratifying for Mantovani, who’s eager to see his device helping his father.
Since then, they’ve improved the EvoWalk and built out their vision for the company, with the goal to use the technology to assist with all different types of walking impairments — or even movement impairments, such as helping with shoulder, arm or back rehabilitations.
Additionally, Mantovani hopes the device can also be adapted to help elderly walkers who are beginning to lose function feel safer and be more active.
“I think there’s a lot of potential, not just for people with neuro impairments, but doing a physical therapy platform for people who have walking impairments from age,” Mantovani added.
Just last month, Evolution Devices launched a virtual physical therapy platform that works alongside the artificial-intelligence-powered stimulation device to personalize care.
The device’s built-in sensors feed real-time motion data to AI algorithms, providing physical therapists with detailed data and metrics that allow them insights to then refine and tailor a patient’s rehab treatment.
“I think it can really change the game for physical therapists who treat a lot of different styles of walking,” Mantovani said. “For the millions of people who are living with mobility impairments, this combination is not currently available with any other fall-prevention or rehab therapy.”
Earlier pilot studies of the EvoWalk Platform revealed that patients experienced up to a tenfold increase in their walking activity and improved their walking speed in as little as eight weeks, according to Evolution Devices.
A pilot of the EvoWalk Platform is currently being conducted through the company’s director of clinical services and neurophysical therapist, while UCSF Physical Therapy is running an EvoWalk clinical study.
Evolution Devices has raised more than $1 million in funding and grants and has recently launched an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise an additional $1 million, which is set to enable them to accelerate commercialization efforts.
For more information, visit republic.co/evolution-devices.