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.

Company History

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 Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery and Research

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 Team

Our company is new. Our product is new. But our experience and reputation are not.

Maggie-Lee Huckabee

Maggie-Lee Huckabee

Founding Director and Chief Scientific Officer

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 Wakefield

Founding Director and Chair of Board

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.

Emma Hayes

Emma Hayes

Chief Operating Officer
Emma has worked within the Medical Device industry for over 7 years, initially as a Product Development Engineer before realising her passion for project management and compliance. Combining her technical knowledge and experience with her natural disciplined and enabling approach, Emma took on regulatory and quality roles within orthopaedic medical device companies. Emma is logical, systematic and brings experience of working with US, EU, AU and NZ regulators and quality management systems. Emma is delighted to be collaborating with the team at Swallowing Technologies, a true purpose-led company. Emma originally hails from Ireland and has lived in NZ for 10 years and calls Christchurch home. Outside of work, Emma spends time with her family and dog Nelson, getting out and exploring all that NZ has to offer.
Ryan Sadler

Ryan Sadler

Product Development Engineer

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


Darcy Maddren

Full Stack Software Engineer

Darcy graduated with a degree in Software Engineering from the University of Canterbury in 2023. Through an internship during university, Darcy developed technical skills in designing, developing, and deploying cloud-based solutions and user-friendly web applications. With a fresh set of eyes, an eagerness to learn, and technical knowledge acquired through university, Darcy is thrilled to be working alongside a passionate team, on technology that improves lives. Outside of work, Darcy enjoys exploring the scenic trails and slopes of our local Southern Alps, or skating through the streets of Ōtautahi, Christchurch.

William Lee

Business Advisor
Bill has a varied and extensive track record as both an active investor and director of start-up companies. After selling his high-country sheep and beef farm, Bill has invested his own capital in various companies, including a mussel farming, processing and exporting business, a bacterial detection company specialising in food safety, a medical device company which produces patient lifting devices, and a blood serum company which supplies products worldwide to vaccine manufacturers. For about 10 years, he was Commercial Director of Research and Innovation at the University of Canterbury, during which time several start-ups and licensing agreements were completed, based upon technology developed at UC. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors. Currently he is also actively involved in his family’s Black Truffle business, developing a large-scale garden at his and wife Susie’s new home in North Canterbury, and running endurance races in the South Island’s Mountain lands.

Esther Guiu Hernandez

Biomedical Engineer

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 Knapp

Eric Knapp

Human Factors Advisor

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.

Lisa Hudson

Lisa Hudson

Head of RA/QA

Lisa brings a wide range of regulatory, quality and business knowledge to SwalTech. Her experience providing regulatory and quality leadership for low and high-risk medical device companies for over 8 years as well as working in sales, customer support and logistics roles, has built an extensive base of business process understanding.

Lisa is passionate about making sure our products are the best quality they can be for customers by using appropriate RA/QA processes to achieve the desired results. A firm believer that the team is everything, Lisa is very happy to be working alongside a highly focused and talented team.

When not working, Lisa takes every opportunity to join her family pursuing their passion for rallying. Lisa, her husband and two kids are all rally co-drivers competing at the national championship level in New Zealand with both children having success overseas and bright futures in the sport.