Swallowing Technologies serves as the commercial conduit for transferring health technology developed at the University of Canterbury Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery and Research to clinicians and patients who need it.
Founded in 2021 by Maggie-Lee Huckabee and Steve Wakefield, Swallowing Technologies creates innovative technologies that enable increased and equitable access to rehabilitation, benefitting patients through improved health outcomes, quality of life and community integration, and the community through reduced healthcare costs.
Back in 1991, Maggie-Lee was the first to document the use of sEMG in swallowing recovery. Maggie-Lee was also one of the first to specifically evaluate cortical motor planning for swallowing and set the foundation for future research and the ‘swallowing skill training approach’ to rehabilitation.
At the Rose Centre, Maggie-Lee's research programme is heavily focused on the development of innovative technologies to transfer to clinical care. The original Biofeedback in Strength and Skill Training (BiSSkiT) software was developed as a research tool for her research using an off-the-shelf surface electromyography (sEMG) device to detect and display muscle activity with wired sensors under the chin.
In 2016, Maggie-Lee and her team made the software available to clinicians in the EU, Australia and New Zealand markets. This allowed for rapid translation of research to clinical practice and provided direct, hands-on market feedback for future developments. The positive feedback from clinicians and patients led to strong brand recognition for BiSSkiT and the development of the ToMaSSApp.
The University of Canterbury Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery is home to the development of BiSSkiT and ToMassApp. The Rose Centre is a state of the art facility at St Georges Medical Centre that helps individuals with swallowing and communication disorders recover function or improve sufficiently to gain the best possible quality of life.
Our company is new. Our product is new. But our experience and reputation are not.
Maggie-Lee worked as a clinician in the US healthcare system for 17 years before the frustration of never knowing ‘the Answers’ prompted her to pursue an academic career. She is the Founding Director of the Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery and Research in Christchurch NZ. This clinic and clinical research facility welcomes patients as research partners, to develop diagnostic and rehab solutions for swallowing impairment that are co-designed with those they are intended to support. Currently, as a Distinguished Professor at the University of Canterbury with 23 years of clinical research and 40+ year of patient engagement to support her, she is now expanding her role to include that of MedTech Entrepreneur. With a driving purpose to transfer research from the ivory tower into the hands of clinicians and patients who will benefit, Maggie-Lee is the Founding Director and Chief Scientific Officer for Swallowing Technologies Ltd. When she is not working, she…oh never mind! As a start-up founder she is always working.
Steve worked for Deloitte for 36 years in IT consulting and accounting in New Zealand, the UK and the USA, after graduating from the University of Canterbury with Commerce and Computer Science degrees. Since taking early retirement from the big-4 five years ago, he has been a professional director and trustee, and focused on governance from start-ups to large organisations. His experience includes deputy chairman of the Canterbury District Health Board, chairman of the NZ Health Innovation Hub, pro-chancellor of the University of Canterbury, director of the HealthOne electronic medical record system limited partnership, and chairman of EVNEX Limited, an electric vehicle charge point company. Steve enjoys bringing his mix of commercial and technology skills to large complex organisations and small entrepreneurial start-ups, and working with a team who are brilliant, motivated, and working to make a positive difference in improving people’s lives.
Kade brings to the table a mix of technical and commercial acumen. After setting a foundation in Chemical and Process Engineering, he continued on to complete a Master’s in Engineering Management. For his Master’s project in 2018 he was introduced to BiSSkApp, and while still in its early concept phase, carried out a commercialisation feasibility study. He subsequently went on to sharpen his skills across process engineering, sales and account management, but remained invested in this project, now returning as General Manager. Outside work Kade enjoys every aspect of the outdoors, whether it’s exploring the vast Southern Alps, or Surfing New Zealand’s beautiful coastline.
Ryan brings knowledge and experience designing and manufacturing embedded systems to Swallowing Technologies. After receiving a degree in Mechatronics Engineering, he gained industry experience in risk management as well as electrical and automation engineering while working with energy, followed by food and beverage contract engineering firms. Having a passion for R&D, Ryan subsequently moved into the OEM business, gaining knowledge and experience working to design manufacturable embedded systems with industrial and medical applications for the global market. Now focusing solely on the medical industry, Ryan is excited to be working with a great team to help bring innovative, life-changing technology to life. When not working, Ryan enjoys fencing (the sport with swords), and tinkering with electronics
Esther is a Biomedical Engineer who completed her Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. Esther is intrigued by all aspects of engineering but she finds the application of engineering techniques to the human body a fascinating, absorbing, and rewarding area. She has been working for the last seven years in the area of swallowing disorders at the Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery and Research, providing much-needed support in a wide range of areas from software and hardware development to study design and data analysis. Her passion resides in translation of ideas to products that can directly improve the health of the patients. Esther was born in Catalunya and embarked on a supposed one year adventure to discover New Zealand travelling on a gypsy van with her husband, 9 years later she calls Aotearoa her home. In her spare time, you will find Esther playing in nature with her energetic son Kauri, hiking on the hills and building community projects.
Eric was an ex paid fire fighter of 12 years before his life changed dramatically after a massive stroke leaving him without the ability to speak or swallow. After intensive rehabilitation in 2013 under the watchful eye of Maggie-Lee at the Rose Centre, Eric gained the ability to swallow and to the delight of his friends and family, speak again and he hasn’t shut up since! Eric knows first-hand what it’s like to lose what you took for granted and worked so hard to gain. He is passionate about helping others like himself by applying his lived experience as a patient advocate, ensuring that the patient is kept at the core of everything that Swallowing Technologies does. Outside of work, Eric enjoys spending time exploring Christchurch indulging in the culinary delights it has to offer with his partner Jess.
Ruth is a passionate Speech Language Therapist and above all else, a people-centred person. With a wealth of experience in the performing arts and travel industry, Ruth has many strings to her bow. Still, supporting clients and whānau on their journey of swallowing recovery is what truly makes her heart sing! Hence, Ruth has embarked on PhD studies to discover and develop treatments that promote brain change for the recovery of swallowing. With this vision as her driving motivation, Ruth is a proud member of the Swallowing Technologies Team. Look out for Ruth in her Polar Bear campervan, on the road to adventure for good views, food, and wine!
Administrator by day viola player by night!
Fiona has sharpened her administrative skills through a wide range of experiences, having worked in law, education and healthcare. She has been the administrator of Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery and Research since its opening and shines not only in her attention to detail, but as a beacon of good will, communication and support for those who come to the Centre. After supporting the good work of the Rose Centre, Fiona is now excited to play her part in extending innovations of the centre to the broader clinical world. Her passion for people and administrative wizardry are welcomed at Swallowing Technologies.
When she is not working Fiona can be found hiking the hills of the South Island. She is also a passionate gardener and cook, making her own cheese, breads, cured meats and distilling gin.