Marissa Koscielski recently introduced Enlighten Mobility’s new diagnostic device, the GMat Neuromotor Screening, as a featured presenter at the virtual 2021 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Technology Showcase. It was a milestone for the company — and a special moment for the gritty entrepreneur who spent a good deal of her childhood in the hospital.
What was it like to introduce Enlighten Mobility’s new device at the Nationwide Children’s Technology Showcase?
Exciting! It was such an honor for Enlighten Mobility to be part of this important forum. When we were first invited, I immediately remember sitting in the audience of my first Nationwide Technology Showcase as a graduate student. I was moved to tears watching Avexis present the remarkable outcomes of their gene therapy drug. And I felt an instant affinity to the Nationwide community because I spent a lot of my childhood in the hospital. I’m truly honored that Enlighten Mobility is now a licensee of Nationwide Children’s Hospital to develop the GMat Neuromotor Screening — it’s the first automated non-invasive neuromotor screening for newborns. Through her work in NICUs with high-risk babies, Dr. Nathalie Maitre recognized an opportunity to make early intervention more accessible starting at birth, and we’re thrilled to develop the GMat alongside the team at Nationwide Children’s.
How will the GMat make a difference in the lives of children?
Intervention at birth will make a difference in the lives of all children and their families — catching something on day one instead of waiting years for symptoms to appear. The GMat collects three-dimensional motion of newborns and uses artificial intelligence to detect patterns of variability that the human eye and brain are unable to process. With the ability to screen at birth utilizing this technology, we’ll have objective and reliable assessments for all babies. That means accelerating early diagnosis and intervention to mitigate loss of important developmental milestones. We’re working to ensure that one day, every single newborn is screened with the GMat.
Your story is one of determination. What led you to where you are today?
Growing up, I was always physically active, but I was fighting a complex illness at the same time. I eventually lost neurologic function on the left side of my body and ended up at Mayo Clinic, where doctors removed a mass from my spine. I was told that I would likely never walk again — but I was determined to try everything to prevent that from happening! I wanted out of my wheelchair, so I sat in front of the physical therapy equipment closet to grab braces and gait belts and therabands to attach to my walker. I made a contraption that held my body weight and moved my legs in a walking motion. I used my contraption every day for nine weeks, moving up and down the hallway of the hospital until I could take my first independent steps. There was nothing fancy about what I put together, but my team at Mayo said my contraption could help individuals with unilateral immobility since they suffer from a larger technology void than what I experienced. I decided to devote my graduate research at Notre Dame to explore how early intervention with movement could advance development and recovery — and that work turned into Enlighten Mobility. Our first product, the Enlight Gait Trainer independent walking device, is based on my contraption. And now that we’re developing the GMat, I wonder if a screening at birth could have helped diagnose and treat my illness sooner.
How do you keep moving?
I’ve always loved being active, which is probably why I was so determined to get moving when I was in recovery. Seven years after my surgery at Mayo, I did my first Ragnar Race in Snowmass, Colorado. Training for the race and then actually doing it was so incredibly challenging — and so much fun! I got hooked — and now I’m committed to doing a running or hiking event every single year. I’d love to join one of the Climbing for ROMP hiking events with adaptive and able-bodied athletes to support prosthetic programming in underserved populations. But for now, I’m logging miles every day. I enjoy running and hiking, but I’m always up for fly-fishing or just about anything outdoors that keeps me moving.
“From my time in the hospital as a child, to working with patients and clinicians today, I’ve always believed that because you’re faced with a medical mountain doesn’t mean you have to turn away and give up. There’s always a path forward as long as you’re willing to take the first steps.” -Marissa Koscielski, Founder