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Hidden Gems: Meet Alice Wen of LegTrek

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alice Wen, a Co-founder of LegTrek. Alice and team share their story with us below:

Alice, along with her friend, Saloni Methi, joined LegTrek during her senior year at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Through the Technology Management Program at UCSB, they met Kevin Huynh-Tran and Brandon Luu, the original founders of LegTrek.

LegTrek started as a senior engineering capstone project at UCSB in 2019. The project revolved around working closely with Lumi, a Santa Barbara local 7th-grade girl diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Lumi relies primarily on a power chair to get around. When she wants to exercise her legs, she requires a gait trainer as support while she walks. Unfortunately, this means that she needs to be transferred between two devices, hence being reliant on her parents and caregivers multiple times a day.

Through understanding her struggles and working very closely with Lumi’s therapist, Kevin and Brandon’s capstone team developed a device that combines a power chair and a gait trainer into one device so that Lumi can sit, stand, and walk wherever she wants, whenever she needs, for however long she desires.

The device gave Lumi the independence she wanted, and the empowerment she needed as a 7th-grade girl. We named the device, “Lumi™”.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
The journey of starting up a medical device company is never a smooth road, especially when we are faced with challenges from investors or competition judges pointing out our young age and limited experiences in the startup world. Despite our limited experience, however, our engineers graduated top of their class, with Masters of Science in Engineering with an emphasis in robotics and control systems. I am also attending Keck Graduate Institute, where I am obtaining a Master of Business and Science, with a Biotech Management emphasis. Our entire team is not only well-suited, but we are motivated and fiercely dedicated to bringing Lumi™ to market so that it can make a difference in the lives of children with lower limb immobilities.

Also, our team enters in a lot of pitch competitions to meet mentors and find funding. We are so thankful for the mentors we met at UCSB! Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We are always on the lookout for regulatory specialists, as the FDA process is notorious for ensuring the safety and efficacy of medical devices. To help accelerate Lumi™ into the market, we want experienced regulatory specialists to assist and guide us. If anyone in the Santa Barbara/Los Angeles area is willing to help, please contact us!

We’ve been impressed with LegTrek Inc., but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
LegTrek is a medical device, specifically an assistive robotics, company that helps people with lower limb immobilities. We emphasize our core values of empowerment and independence to those who use our devices. We are passionate about what we do. Since the beginning, every step of our product development and journey, we value and revolve around direct patient and physical therapists’ feedback. We encourage people with lower limb disabilities to speak with us to learn more about our products or find out ways to participate in our upcoming clinical trials. Additionally, we want to seek out services such as mentoring with physical therapists, physicians, regulatory affairs specialists, and/or business development professionals.

Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
From my perspective, I think entrepreneurship is not something that a lot of girls pursue because we’ve been told many times as young girls growing up that we should stay away from risk-taking. But for me, risks are scary only if you’re unprepared. But if you think of them as opportunities, and how we are conditioned to approach opportunities, then they’re just calculated navigation of challenges and moment-to-moment crisis management.

I saw what that opportunity looked like at Los Angeles’s Abilities Expo, where a kid almost jumped out of his wheelchair to try to get onto the Lumi™, which at that time LegTrek was demo-ing the prototype. The kid saw a glimpse of what could be his future, and in that excited moment, he took a physical risk to get out of his comfort zone into a device that is not even finished; he didn’t see a device that is “risky”, he saw the device as an opportunity for independence and empowerment. This reflects to me as an opportunity to make that future vision a reality. In short, risks are just opportunities; whatever your opportunity may be, grab it and run!

As Kevin Huynh-Tran, our CEO, said in the Innovation UCSB interview, “Repeatedly take leaps of faith because there will always be obstacles and uncertainties that will convince you not to do it. There is no secret ingredient to getting to where we are, we just worked hard and did it. Hopefully, others see themselves in us and what we’re hoping to achieve here.”

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