Vicis is getting some help from the University of Alabama at Birmingham to develop a better football helmet.
The Seattle-based startup on Tuesday announced a new partnership with UAB to combine expertise and intellectual property.
Founded in 2013, Vicis has created the ZERO1 helmet that features a unique outer shell material designed to mitigate the forces thought to cause concussions on the football field and in other contact sports. The helmet will be used by players on the field next season.
Researchers and physicians across the UAB campus, meanwhile, have spent the past several years learning about traumatic brain injury and concussions in football. The UAB Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic at Children’s Alabama, UAB’s Vestibular and Oculomotor Research Laboratory, and the UAB School of Engineering have all worked on separate but related initiatives.
Vicis and UAB will now work together, sharing best practices and knowledge as they both aim to reduce the amount of concussion-related injuries in football and other sports.
“The ZERO1 football helmet we are launching this year delivers a significant leap forward in technology and performance vs. conventional helmets,” Vicis CEO Dave Marver said in a statement. “Our partnership with UAB provides additional horsepower in engineering, materials and neurological science which will help VICIS continue to introduce advancements in helmet technology for the benefit of this great sport and the kids who play it.”
Some of the helmet-related UAB research has come out of the school’s engineering lab, where Dr. Dean Sicking, who helped invent interstate guardrails and NASCAR’s Safer Barrier, is working with students to analyze thousands of helmet-to-helmet impacts in football.
Sicking believes that a better-designed helmet can help address a growing concussion problem at all levels of football. He’s worked with UAB’s Materials Processing and Applications Development Center engineers to develop new helmet materials that focus on impact reduction.
“Football helmets have been designed to prevent skull fracture, and they do a very good job at that,” Sicking said in a statement. “But helmets have not evolved to address concussions. A VICIS/UAB partnership can change that.”
The partnership adds to Vicis’ impressive list of advisors and partners, which include top researchers and leaders across the science and sports worlds. The company just raised another $4 million earlier this month as it prepares to equip players later this year with its helmet.
Vicis spun out of the University of Washington in 2014 and one of its co-founders, CTO Per Reinhall, is the chairman of the UW Mechanical Engineering Department. Reinhall co-founded the company with Vicis CEO Dave Marver, Chief Medical Officer Samuel Browd, and UW Associate Engineering Professor Jonathan Posner.