Wave Therapeutics: Fighting Pressure Injuries with Innovative Cushioning Technology

By Mark Ogilbee posted 08-03-2023 09:43 PM


Wave Therapeutics, an AgeTech Collaborative™ startup participant, is building affordable, next-generation therapeutic cushions to help those with mobility impairments prevent painful — and dangerous — bed sores. Paired with remote monitoring technology, the company’s cushions provide key metrics and generate analytics that help caregivers and medical staff better anticipate problems before they start. 

We sat down with founder and CEO Jessica Bussert to learn more about the company and its groundbreaking technology. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 


Please tell us about Wave Therapeutics. 

We’re on a mission to end the problem of preventable bed sores, using our affordable and effective soft robotics cushioning technology. Every year in the United States alone, three million people develop a pressure injury or bed sore, and 60,000 die. That’s about 50% more deaths than from car accidents. 


What is soft robotics cushioning technology? 

We’ve created a cushion made of neoprene air bladders; it uses a pneumatics-based system to sequentially inflate and deflate individual bladders, creating a rolling wave of low pressure that moves under the user from their knees, across the back of their thighs, and past their buttocks. 

This allows fresh, oxygenated blood to flow to all those tissues where the pressure is being relieved. And because the wave moves from the front to the back, it pushes that blood through the tissues on its way back to the heart and lungs for reoxygenation, supporting the body’s natural circulation. The motion is very gentle and comfortable, like getting a very gentle massage. 


Such a gentle motion can really make a difference? 

We’re going to show evidence and efficacy, not only for pressure injury prevention, but also for circulatory assist and helping prevent things such as blood clots, lymphedema and other conditions. We pair the cushion with a computer attached to sensors and real-time communications that deliver rich data to family members and clinicians, and we’ve done all this at a price that anybody can afford. 


What’s the company’s origin story? 

My first career was in technology; I’m a multidisciplinary engineer with skills in computer, mechanical and electrical engineering. Later in life, I made a big change and retrained as an emergency room nurse. One day I was working in an ER when a disabled veteran came in, septic and almost dead from the most infected bed sores I’d ever seen. He was poor and lived in a cheap wheelchair, and his only cushioning was a torn-off piece of a foam mattress. It was really horrific.  

As I was taking care of him, he told me that his doctor had prescribed a wheelchair cushion that would rock from side to side and help treat his wounds, but it cost $4,000 and he couldn’t afford it. His story broke my heart, especially because some company was making a simple product that might have cost $100 to build and was charging $4,000 for it. This really motivated me, and I decided to use my engineering skills to come up with a better solution that could be manufactured and sold affordably, so that anybody who needed it could get it. And that’s what we’ve done. 


What kinds of challenges have you faced while building the company? 

Fundraising is always a challenge, particularly if you’re a female or minority founder. A tiny percentage of all venture capital (VC) dollars go to female and minority founders, and that makes it difficult to bring a life-saving technology to market when you’re having to do so on a shoestring. 

Another challenge is regulatory requirements, which are pretty onerous. I’m not complaining, because I think it’s important to have those in place. But meeting FDA and other various requirements are cumbersome for a small startup to meet. It would be great if there was some kind of breakthrough route that would allow us to get our technology to market a little quicker. 


If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you were starting the company, what would it be? 

Hold on to your hats, because it’s going to be a wild ride! This is the first company I’ve run that’s required somebody else’s money, and I spend easily half my time seeking VC and angel investor dollars. It’s also crucial to address all those regulatory requirements correctly, because if you get it wrong, the consequences are big. The other thing I would tell myself is to always surround yourself with quality people who embrace your mission, because if you’ve got good people at your side, it makes the journey that much easier. 


What’s on the horizon for Wave Therapeutics? 

Two things. First, we’re going to enter the market with our wheelchair cushion, and we’re going to offer the same technology in a full-sized hospital mattress so you can get that same wave-like motion in a hospital or caregiving facility. We’re also going to offer a variant of that for surgical tables, and we’ll be offering a consumer version of this for drivers, so ride-hailing drivers, truck drivers and anybody else who’s seated for long periods of time can get the massage-like comfort of our cushions. 

Second, if any organizations in this space think that there might be an opportunity for a mutually beneficial collaboration with Wave Therapeutics, I’m always happy to talk. Especially if someone is interested in participating in a clinical trial or a pilot study, we’re very interested in making those connections. 


Vist Wave Therapeutic’s website to learn more.