MBA Graduate Makes Strides in Helping Those with Osteoarthritis
Contributed by Izabela Shubair, DeGroote Contributor
When Matthew Rosato’s son was born with cerebral palsy, he took a break from his career to support him. That break turned into Rosato launching a health tech startup that aims to help not only his son but also millions living with osteoarthritis and mobility challenges. Now, the DeGroote MBA graduate is catching the attention of numerous organizations and investors — including the Arthritis Society, which recently awarded him $50,000 to grow his venture.
“My son drives everything but if I can help millions of people in the process of helping him, that’s fantastic,” says Rosato, who completed his MBA in 2012 and also holds a Bachelor of Engineering from McMaster. “I want to change the standard of care. In the coming years, osteoarthritis will put a burden on our healthcare system. We need a way to do personalized medicine.”
Launched in 2018, Rosato’s PROVA Innovations is a startup at The Forge, McMaster University’s business incubator. PROVA has designed the first ever non-invasive, home-based device that guides movement in patients with osteoarthritis, reducing pressure on the hips and knee joints potentially slowing the progression of the disease. By sending cues in small vibrations to the foot, the “smart” in-soles, called WithinStride®, act as a virtual trainer — making them useful for gait rehabilitation.
“I saw gaps in my son’s therapy where the therapist could correct his gait using her hands but when we left therapy, he would forget,” says Rosato. “Our device works in real time, throughout a person’s daily activities.”
To bring his vision to the market, Rosato leans on both his undergraduate education and his MBA. In fact, he says that his time in the MBA program prepared him for the entrepreneurial route through its emphasis on strategy, group projects, time management, and wide-ranging business knowledge.
“The MBA gives you a different way of thinking and helps you consider all angles,” says Rosato. “I had courses on patents, governance, strategy, and evaluation and fundraising, for example, which are all relevant to my business. They gave me a foundation on which to build. Today, as part of the Forge, we’re still very much a Mac-centred company, and I’ve hired 10 McMaster students for various internships and co-ops.”
Currently in the seed round of financing, Rosato is busy finding investors and pitching to community. He says this latest recognition from the Arthritis Society’s first-ever Arthritis Ideator Awards is meaningful. In addition to the $50,000 prize, the win incudes access to expert advice from the Arthritis Society and the broader arthritis ecosystem as well as to people living with arthritis who can support beta testing or provide feedback through focus groups or surveys.
“This win is truly validation for us,” says Rosato, who has also received funding from organizations such as Google and the Ontario Brain Institute.
“They really put us through a due diligence process. When you are an entrepreneur in this space, there are so many components to understanding the business, and the MBA was a great place to pick up those skills. With PROVA Innovations, I know it’s a solid business case because I have the skills from DeGroote to prepare it.”
Clinical trials for WithinStride® are scheduled for next year and Rosato hopes to launch to market soon after. He has already received more than 120 preorders.
Matthew, as a McMaster professor who has had one hip and shoulder replaced due to osteoarthritis and will need at least the other hip and knees replaced, your work is tremendously important. It seems that so little is being done for those having arthritis that I hope your work gets the deserved support and continuing recognition.
Thank you for your kind words of support and encouragement. I agree, there is a growing need for innovation in the space Osteoarthritis and mobility in general. In North America, the patient population for OA alone is anticipated to balloon to over 80 million within the coming decades. PROVA has a role to play; We plan to change the standard of care and introduce a series of products that provide effective and personalized in-home gait interventions that are shown to benefit long term joint health. It’s exciting, and again I want to thank the Degroote School of business for providing the underlying toolset that has helped me to explore this undertaking.
My wife ( aged 64) was diagnosed with FAI recently and after speaking to an orthopedic surgeon, I understand that the diagnosis of FAI at her age is almost always OA. I also read a meta-analysis that the plain x-ray of the hip is extremely inaccurate at diagnosis of the root cause of pain of the hip and that the diagnosis of FAI is often inaccurate. My wife has had hip pain for months, often keeping her awake at night. She has tried physio, osteopath, exercises with little or only short lived relief. She is a nurse who graduated from McMaster but we live in Ottawa.
What would you recommend?