Abilitech Product Launch on Schedule Despite Covid Challenges
Abilitech founder/CEO Angie Conley and engineer Rob Wudlick. Photo courtesy of Abilitech Medical

Abilitech Product Launch on Schedule Despite Covid Challenges

Founder and CEO Angie Conley on the benefits of telehealth and challenges of marketing during a pandemic.

Just months from finalizing its U.S Food and Drug Administration FDA listing and launching its first-of-a-kind wearable assistive arm device for patients with upper-limb weakness, Abilitech Medical’s long-planned and highly anticipated rollout hit pandemic roadblocks.

“We missed the opportunity to get in front of thousands of clinicians and patients,” said Angie Conley, founder and CEO of the Eden Prairie-based med-tech startup, which nabbed top honors in the 2019 Minnesota Cup competition for its innovative motorized device, which enables patients to use their own strength for arm movement. Conley started working on the concept in 2016 and has raised $12 million so far. The Abilitech Assist device, which has passed numerous trials, is scheduled to roll out for patient use in the fall. Conley talked about the process of building a med-tech startup on the latest episode of TCB podcast By All Means.

Since March, the Abilitech management and engineering team has been working almost entirely remotely. “We’re pretty productive,” Conley said.

But at its current stage, product demonstrations and marketing are key. “We had to retool, and see how else we can reach patients and let them know about our device,” Conley said. Abilitech stepped up its social media and implementing telehealth screenings—a practice many in the medical field are finding to be an advantage.

“We’re able to screen patients through a video chat at home to see if the device is right for them,” Conley said. “It costs us less, replaces some of the conventions and exposure. For clinican partners, we’re able to help screen for them, so they can focus on fitting.”

And that’s particularly helpful with Abilitech’s target market of patients with muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis, for whom getting to a clinic appointment can be taxing. Conley has seen that firsthand from one of her own engineers, Rob Wudlick, who lives with a C4 spinal cord injury.

“When we have a staff meeting at 9 a.m., Rob wakes up at 4 a.m. to get ready,” Conley said. “When we talk to patients about their access to health care, it’s so challenging. Just to get up and leave the house. Anything we can do to make it easier helps.”

Listen to our full conversation with Conley—from fundraising and accelerators to med-tech challenges—on By All Means, a podcast focused on leaders and entrepreneurs behind many influential Minnesota businesses. Available on most major podcast platforms.