Medical Device Startup 109 Design Receives $100,000 from YEI Innovation Fund

November 18, 2014: Yale medical device startup 109 Design is looking to roll out their first 100 brace-tracking devices by the end of the year. The team was just awarded $100,000 from the YEI Innovation Fund to help begin manufacturing their feedback device which attaches to scoliosis braces and provides real-time feedback on brace wear-time and tightness. The money will also support the further development of a web and iPhone app for making sense of the data produced by these devices.

109 Design's device integrates with existing brace straps.

109 Design’s device integrates with existing brace straps.

“It’s so important to be able to see the data every day,” says Ellen Su (’13) who cofounded 109 Design along with Levi DeLuke (’14) and Sebastian Monzon (’14). “Currently you don’t see the data until three months later. We think this device and app will help kids be more engaged in their own treatment.”

The three met at the Center for Engineering, Innovation and Design (CEID), where 109 Design began during a CEID Summer Fellowship. DeLuke had suffered from scoliosis—and spinal surgery—as a child, but says the team wanted to understand scoliosis from a wide range of perspectives before starting their work. They spoke to patients, their parents, physicians and orthotists about the challenges faced in scoliosis treatment today. The primary problem they found was that children were not wearing their braces as prescribed and that invasive spinal fusion surgeries were needed as a result. The team fine-tuned their venture at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI), first through the Venture Creation Program which supports early-stage ventures, and then through the YEI Fellowship, a 10-week summer bootcamp for the most promising Yale ventures.

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that affects approximately 6 million people in the U.S., most ranging in age from 10 to 15. The data produced by 109 Design’s device will provide invaluable information to help doctors, parents and patients better understand and manage scoliosis treatment so that they might make adjustments and ultimately prevent surgery. The team is currently working with doctors at Yale New Haven Hospital collecting data from patients using the device. The next step is a clinical trial.

“The YEI Innovation Fund lets us bridge the gap between the YEI Fellowship and the next milestones,” says DeLuke.

Su adds that the funding will also help them to manufacture a number of devices to be used in research studies and to figure out how best to scale up. They are working with a development firm on the related app, and intend to eventually include a built-in incentive program so that kids who wear their braces as directed are automatically rewarded (via iTunes credits or the like).

The team is also talking about how their device and software might be adapted to track other health conditions. “Our device is well-suited to track anything physical,” DeLuke says, “orientation, motion, speed. Doctors can take that data and match it with clinical needs.”

CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, (203)436-4933,

About the YEI Innovation Fund

The YEI Innovation Fund offers pre-seed funding to the most promising Yale startups. The Fund was created in September 2013 by Yale University in partnership with Connecticut Innovations and First Niagara Bank in order to improve access to early stage investment capital in Connecticut. Learn more at