Professor Nancy Mayo’s research at McGill led to the creation of PhysioBiometrics, a start-up that develops products to help people move better. PhysioBiometrics received crucial support from the McGill Innovation Fund.

The idea came to Nancy Mayo after years of trying to teach clients how to walk better.

“One thing physiotherapists say all the time is: Put your heel down first,” says Mayo. “As a clinician, I had a lot of experience with that. But once you stop working with the patient, they just revert back.”

Trained as a physiotherapist, Mayo is a James McGill Professor in the Department of Medicine and the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy. She’s also a research scientist with the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, where she explores function, disability, and quality of life for vulnerable populations.

Sharing a taxi back from a research conference, it came to her. “I said to the others, wouldn’t it be amazing if we had something that beeped when people put their heel down, so we don’t have to be there at every step?”

Fast forward nine years and Mayo is president and co-founder of PhysioBiometrics, a McGill start-up developing products to help people move better — including the Heel2Toeᵀᴹ sensor, a wearable device paired with a mobile app that encourages proper movement while walking. The company won first place in the health sciences category at the 2020 McGill Dobson Cup competition.

And in December 2021, PhysioBiometrics won the top $100,000 award from the new McGill Innovation Fund. With no strings attached, the award goes to McGill projects that have begun commercialization and have the potential to do well. Winning projects are also matched for a year with a team of McGill alumni, experts in their respective fields.

“This award is helping us move from start-up to ramp-up,” says co-founder Ted Hill, a technology analyst with a doctorate in software engineering. He says that PhysioBiometrics will have a fully realized device ready to go this fall. “It’s a winner and I’m investing my eggs in this basket.”

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Photo: Owen Egan/Joni Dufour