LIMBER Prosthetic & Orthotics Inc is advancing integrative imaging, modeling, and manufacturing solutions for comfortable, low-cost prosthetic devices, formed at Jacobs School of Engineering
Only 1 in 10 people in need has access to prosthetic and orthotic devices, due to their extremely high cost and the limited access to skilled physicians. Co-Founders Joshua Pelz, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Ph.D. Candidate, and Luca De Vivo Nicoloso, Structural Engineering, Post-Doctoral Researcher started the company to bring technology out of the laboratory and into the hands of the people in need.
Visiting a prosthetic clinic in Mexico, they experienced first-hand the great need for new solutions. Their scan, design, print workflow will enable the next generation of prosthetic care, where limbs are more comfortable and functional at an affordable price and accessible anywhere in the world.
Read more on their incredible journey, from meeting in structural engineering class (SE283 Engineering Frontiers), to conceptualizing the first iteration of their 3D printed prosthesis.
What excites you about your work?
LDV: What excites me the most is the opportunity to apply my research, knowledge, and new technologies to make a positive impact on a global scale. The idea of solving a global problem and translating research from our labs to market and into the hands of people that need it most is something that excites me and motivates me every day.
“I want to bring our technology out of the lab and work on the ground with people in need, said Pelz. “Our technology will literally change people’s lives and help them get back on their feet in the literal sense and in terms of their job, social life, and health.”
JSP: Making a difference in people’s lives while pursuing my passions for engineering and 3D printing. I want to bring our technology out of the lab and work on the ground with people in need. Our technology will literally change people’s lives and help them get back on their feet in the literal sense and in terms of their job, social life, and health.
How did you first get involved with The Basement & the UC San Diego entrepreneurial community?
LDV: Our first involvement with the UC San Diego entrepreneurial community was when our team joined the IGE MedTech Accelerator program a couple years ago. Last year our team joined the Blackstone Launchpad program at The Basement with the help of Jacques Chirazi.
JSP: The IGE MedTech Accelerator program was my first connection with the UC San Diego entrepreneurial community and also my first delve from science and engineering into the world of business. I’ve greatly enjoyed learning about business through building a start-up.
What campus resources helped you throughout your student entrepreneurial journey?
LDV: There are countless resources that have helped our team through our entrepreneurial journey. The first one that comes to mind are all the programs that The Basement, Rady School of Management, and IGE offer to students of all disciplines. In my experience the greatest resource at UC San Diego has been people. Our mentors, professors, team members, collaborators, and invited speakers have been extremely important during our journey and who have helped us shape our roadmap and achievements.
Also, The Basement and IGE have provided not only an environment but key opportunities to share our work with a greater audience. The feedback and connections generated during these public speaking activities have also greatly shaped who we are nowadays.
“In my experience the greatest resource at UC San Diego has been people,” said Nicoloso”. “Our mentors, professors, team members, collaborators, and invited speakers have been extremely important during our journey and are they who have helped us shape our roadmap and achievements.”
JSP: There are many ways that campus resources have impacted our entrepreneurial journey. In my opinion, the greatest advantage of working on the UC San Diego campus is access to high-quality mentors who are experts in technology, business, and start-ups.
How did you balance being a full-time student while also running a startup?
LDV: It has not been easy and it is a lot of extra work, but with great rewards. In my opinion building a startup based on your previous research or academic endeavors is the best way to combine the student and entrepreneurial life. You have to be very passionate about your startup and business, as this will make it feel like something fun and not extra work.
JSP: I agree with Luca. Balancing a start-up with graduate work is challenging but very rewarding. I’m working in a similar technology as my graduate research which helps. Also, it won’t be possible unless you love what you are doing!
What role have mentors played in your success/journey?
LDV: As mentioned earlier, our mentors have been our most fundamental asset to this day. They have helped us see the greater picture and break it down into actionable items that are easier to digest and pursue. Our mentors both at the entrepreneurial and scientific level have guided our process, provided feedback and resources, and helped us connect with other programs and mentors.
JSP: As a scientist and engineer, I had no idea where to start when I decided to start building a start-up. The LIMBER team has spent countless hours with many different mentors to get us to where we are today. Mentors give advice, motivation, and connect you to other resources.
What advice would you give to another UC San Diego student thinking about starting a company?
LDV: I would recommend they utilize all the resources for entrepreneurs at The Basement, IGE and Rady. Some programs include Blackstone Launchpad Program at The Basement, Rady's Micro-MBA and the Technology Management and Entrepreneurism Certificate, a joint partnership of Rady and IGE. I will also recommend starting your entrepreneurial studies early in your academic career as this may help you shape other aspects of your work and research.
“I would encourage them [students] to form and grow a passionate and dedicated team around them. This in my opinion is the most important aspect of building a startup.”
You will start to see opportunities from your research and academic work, especially when thinking from a market need perspective and learning how to identify opportunities based on your skillset. Lastly. I would encourage students to form and grow a passionate and dedicated team around them. This in my opinion is the most important aspect of building a startup. Find other like minded students around campus, ask professors for feedback and support, and grow a strong list of mentors.
JSP: I agree with Luca. He nailed this question!