The Yale and Brown University startup Penta has found a way to bring high quality prosthetic care to developing countries at a low cost. The venture, founded by Yale student Victor Wang and Trang Duong of Brown University, has been perfecting a scalable and transparent system to collect used, high-quality prosthetics from patients and clinics in the US, ship them to developing countries in Southeast Asia, and match them with those in need. The used  prostheses cannot be resold due to liability regulations and Penta's solution both diverts medical waste and provides affordable healthcare in low-income countries.  

The startup, which is part of the Clinton Global Initiative University Innovation Fund, oversees the process from start to finish - even sending a short profile to the donor of the patient who has been matched with their prosthetic. By doing so, the team provides a streamlined and transparent service for donors in the U.S.  They collect used prosthetics at 20 clinics, including the New England branch of the largest prosthetic clinic chain in the U.S. and hope to be in 60 clinics by the end of 2017. Penta has currently fitted prosthetics for patients in both Vietnam and Thailand.  

The team has spent the past summer partnering with local hospitals in Vietnam and Thailand, fitting around 150 patients so far. Cofounder Trang is from Ho Chi Min City and has witnessed firsthand the issues of limb disability and lack of access to prosthetic care in her home country. According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 4 million people with limb disability in Vietnam out of a population of 92 million. Many are the result of motorcycle accidents--streets there are dangerously congested with motorcycles--but debilitating injuries also come from undetonated land mines that are the legacy of the Vietnam and Cambodian Wars. To complicate matters, most of these amputees cannot afford the thousands of dollars required for a new prosthetic limb. Penta offers used devices of high quality for just $100.

"We believe that mobility is a right, regardless of economic condition or where one is born, and we see the redistribution of medical devices as a solution to this challenge," Wang says.

The Penta team hopes to scale its collection model across the United States and to reach low-income amputees in developing countries around the world. There are tens of thousands of devices that are replaced each year in the country, Duong said, and Penta wants to make sure that none of these valuable medical supplies go to waste.

The team is currently developing a system that will optimize the matching process between donors and amputees in order to streamline its expansion.

You can learn more and read some of the inspiring stories from this effort on the Penta website

Published on: Oct 16, 2017