University of Wisconsin alumnus Shawn Michels’ revolutionary injection invention is now on the market.
Michels began developing the Steady Shot as an undergraduate at UW. Michels said Steady Shot is a plastic wing attachment for insulin pens that allows a person to inject insulin with only one hand.
Michels said traditional insulin pens require two hands — one to hold the pen and another to pinch the skin to create a build-up of fat to inject into. The Steady Shot’s wings on either side of the needle pinch the skin, allowing a person to use one hand.
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“In my entrepreneurship class at Madison, they said to focus on problems that you have yourself,” Michels said. “I was having problems with rotating injection sites.”
Michels was diagnosed with type I diabetes eight years ago and currently injects insulin around five times a day. When injecting insulin, Michels said doctors recommend areas of the body with fat tissue like the arms, thighs, back or abdomen. Because injecting requires two hands, Michels was only able to inject in the abdomen and thighs.
Over-injecting into the abdomen and thighs led to bruising, scarring or lipohypertrophy. According to the National Institutes of Health, lipohypertrophy is an abnormal accumulation of fat underneath the skin caused by the over-injection of insulin. It makes insulin absorb more slowly and injections more painful. Michels said the only way for this to go away is to rotate injection sites, which is difficult with a traditional insulin pen.
“With the Steady Shot, I was able to give myself arm injections for the first time and rest my over-injected abdomen and thighs,” Michels said. “My lipohypertrophy eventually went away.”
Because of this success, Michels wanted to start a company to help the approximately 2.8 million diabetics with lipohypertrophy in the United States.
Michels said Discovery to Product — a program at UW designed to help staff, faculty and students develop their business ideas — was instrumental in making the company a reality.
“I pitched my idea to the Discovery to Product program at Madison right after I came up with it,” Michels said. “They helped me go through all the steps I needed to do to turn it into a business and commercialize the product.”
Director of D2P Andy Richards said the goal of the program is to help members of the UW community develop their business ideas and foster entrepreneurship success on campus.
Richards said D2P is an extension of Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
D2P’s communication and outreach manager Jen Kobylecky said 109 people participated in the Innovation to Market and Ignite programs in 2019, which are D2P’s cohort-based product development programs.
“Unlike your regular academic classes where you might go in and listen to a lecture, take some notes and leave, we’re really interactive here,” Richards said. “It’s really experiential learning.”
Richards said program participants are the ones putting in the work on their project. The mentors, teachers and trainers at D2P help to guide that work. D2P is meant to be the “front door” on campus for entrepreneurship. Its resources can point people in the right direction and help them learn where to begin.
D2P has mentors and staff from a variety of different backgrounds, Richards said. They work with all types of project ideas, and often the program cohorts have members with very diverse business ideas.
“It’s a really interesting mix of folks that all interact together, learn from each other [and] give each other suggestions and ideas,” Richards said.
Richards said the participants can learn from each other, a valuable experience in itself.
The Steady Shot is available for purchase right through the Steady Shot website, Michels said. Michels hopes to expand the business to reach more people.
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“Most people in the U.S. that inject insulin use insulin pens,” Michels said. “Right now the Steady Shot only works pens, so the first step is to reach as many pen users as we can. After that … we’ll make a Steady Shot that can also be used for syringes.”
Michels said the Steady Shot can be marketed towards health care providers, so it can be used in in-patient settings like hospitals as well.
Kobylecky said if students with a product idea are looking for a place to start, the Innovate Network, a website that D2P maintains, has resources for students to begin their project or find the next step. Kobylecky also recommends students apply for the Transcend Innovation Competition, which Michels won in 2018, according to its website.
“It’s never too early or late to start out on an idea,” Kobylecky said. “There’s lots of creativity here on campus and lots of great resources to point people towards.”