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‘Hipster-Hacker-Hustler’ trio win opportunity to have their healthcare tech commercialised


A Sydney-based ‘Hipster-Hacker-Hustler’ trio was awarded top honours at Johnson & Johnson’s inaugural Health and Technology Challenge, ‘HaTCHathon’, having impressed the judges with their innovative smartphone program designed to assist people recovering from knee reconstructions.    

The weekend-long ‘hackathon’ event, held last month (9 to 11 September), challenged students, health tech experts, entrepreneurs, and start-ups to create tech-based solutions to address key health concerns for Australians. The Friday and Saturday were dedicated to team forming and ‘hacking’, with all 55 participants invited to pitch their ideas for commercialisation on the Sunday to a panel of experts.

Part of this process involved participants undertaking research around the current health landscape, talking to experts and consumers to refine and test their idea and ensure it addressed a viable need in the market.

“An innovative solution to a real problem”

The top prize of $8000 was awarded to Afonso Firmo, Ewaldo Moritz Neto and Adam Pryor of team ‘Kneehab’, who are being given the opportunity to commercialise their innovative idea, which uses smartphone motion sensors to ensure better patient compliance and treatment outcomes following knee reconstruction.

“Our technology allows us to measure the quality of the exercises being performed, track the progress of a patient’s rehab and automatically send reports to their healthcare professionals to ensure they are on the right treatment plan,” said Firmo.

Kneehab’s 20-year-old co-creator, who hails from Portugal and studies environmental engineering at UNSW, described his team as a ‘dynamic Hipster-Hacker-Hustler trio’.

“Our team is blend of different backgrounds and areas of expertise,” Firmo said.

“Ewaldo is a 21-year-old Brazil native who studied mechanical engineering at University of Santa Catarina in Florianópolis and Adam is an Australia-born tech innovator working for a San Francisco-based company in the solar industry. Together, we believed we could come up with an innovative solution to a real problem. The technology will also enable us to address a range of different problems across the healthcare and fitness industries.

“Kneehab really hits a sweetspot in the market”

Bruce Goodwin, Managing Director of Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, Janssen ANZ said the HaTCHathon judges agreed that Kneehab was furthest along in development, making the likelihood of commercialisation and eventual use by patients a real possibility.

“We are now reviewing their proof-of-concept and will commence discussions and further testing and development of their prototype to see how we might be able to bring this to market,” he said.

“Kneehab is patient-focused, practical and easy to use – and importantly, it has the potential to provide better outcomes, while reducing the burden on our already strained healthcare. With over 50,000 knee reconstructions performed in Australia each year, Kneehab really hits a sweet spot in the market, with the potential to help many Australians.

“Innovation can come from anywhere – and from anyone”

Goodwin said the HaTCHathon was a great forum to bring together Australia’s most creative and brightest minds to come up with innovative solutions to tackle some of the country’s biggest health problems.

“As people live longer, health challenges such as chronic diseases become more prevalent, yet they want to remain active and productive members of our society,” he said.

“At Johnson & Johnson, we recognise the unique role that technology will play in the future of the healthcare industry. We also acknowledge and appreciate that this innovation can come from anywhere – and from anyone. Right now we are in the perfect storm for breakthrough innovation and locally, we want to ensure Johnson & Johnson is there to foster, nurture and support great ideas to benefit the health of all Australians.”