A Wisconsin startup focused on retraining weakened mouth muscles that cause people to have difficulty swallowing has launched its first device and raised a $1 million series A as it prepares to roll out a second.
Swallow Solutions’ first institutional round was led by Venture Management with participation from NEW Capital Fund, Wisconsin Investment Partners and individual investors, according to a company statement.
The company’s first product is an oral mouthpiece that uses sensors to measure pressure at five locations on the tongue. Called the Madison Oral Strengthening Therapeutic (MOST), the device connects to a computer and is designed to evaluate and strengthen the muscles used for swallowing. It’s already on the market and is being used in a multicenter clinical trial. A second device, Madison Oralever Resistance Exercise, is scheduled to hit the market this summer.
Dysphagia occurs when there are problems with neural controls or muscles involved in swallowing. It becomes especially prevalent as muscles weaken with age, but can also result from a host of other conditions such as disorders of the esophagus, stroke, head and neck cancers and Parkinson’s disease. If left unaddressed, it could lead to pneumonia, malnutrition, dehydration or aspiration, the entry of foreign material into the airway.
The most serious of treatments for dysphagia involves a feeding tube placed into the stomach to bypass the problem, but less invasive approaches involve muscle-strengthening exercises. This is where Swallow Solutions’ retraining treatments fit in. Competitors may include Empi’s VitalStim Therapy and Aspire Products’ Expiratory Muscle Strength Trainer, a device designed to build respiratory muscles in people with Parkinson’s disease that may improve their swallowing as well.
Swallow Solutions says its addressable market is 15 million adults and millions more infants.
The Madison, Wisconsin, company was formed on research done by Dr. JoAnne Robbins, a professor of gastroenterology and geriatrics/gerontology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.
[Photo from Swallow Solutions]