Cardinal Corner: Alli Truttman, CEO + Founder of WickedSheets

By Jai’Michael Anderson – University of Louisville
February 23, 2024, 06:53am EST

WickedSheets, a startup that specializes in bedding solutions for moisture management, has recently partnered with aging care centers to pilot a smart moisture-wicking bed pad that utilizes UofL research and technology.

The pilots are made possible by a $342,000 federal grant (SBIR) and over $100,000 in additional state funds awarded to improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias (ADR).

The company’s CEO and UofL alum, Alli Truttman, says WickedSheets is close to its 43rd iteration of the pad and has integrated upwards of 200 pads on three different memory care floors for the piloting process.

Chris Bailey, a hardware developer, and Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) at UofL who served as a tech advisor during the pilot recounts the trial as a success for the company. “The customer reported that they didn’t need to change the bedding of any of the residents … which is huge.”

The smart pad features a small fiber optic sensor that alerts caregivers when a resident has wet the bed. Truttman says she is working closely with J.B Speed School researcher Cindy Harnett and her research Partner George Lynn to continue Cindy’s patented research on a sensing technology that will be incorporated into more mature versions of the Wicked Smart Pad.

Harnett’s patent for the technology had yet to be utilized commercially before being introduced to Truttman by Alice Shade, a healthcare startup founder who works in UofL’s EIR program. “She just needed a private partner or a startup or a company to basically take that patent and utilize it,” Truttman said.

Truttman cited the loss of bladder control in populations with Alzheimer’s and dementia as the inspiration to embed a sensor into her absorbent bed pad. “They also don’t have the feeling on their bottoms to know when they’re wet,” Truttman said. “So, I thought it would be a really great idea to put a sensor in my absorbent pad.”

Shade’s work with UofL’s EIR program connected Truttman to the technology to make this possible: Harnett’s patent. Will Metcalf, Associate Vice President for Research and Innovation, who leads New Ventures and the EIR program at UofL, emphasized the importance of this connection.

“This type of new product development is exactly why we have the entrepreneur-in-residence program. We connect our inventors and scientists to the business community and build products that improve lives.”

The inspiration behind the Wicked Smart Pad comes from Truttman’s late grandmother who experienced incontinence-related bed sores. “I really wanted to create the pad first and foremost for her, but she passed away before I could get the product to her.”

Truttman likened the disposable pads to those used for dog training, “Sadly, we use the same type of Disposable underpads on aging adults who are having bed-wetting issues.” She expressed that movements such as residents rolling over can cause the disposable pad to bunch up or slide out, causing urine to get on the floor. The disposable pad’s displacement can create discomfort and lead to physical issues for the resident such as Urinary Tract Infections (UTI).

“Then you have to change the sheets and the bed and it’s just unfortunately a cycle that leads to a lot of issues that could make the person that’s providing the care hurt themselves while they’re flipping the resident,” she said. “It all starts with where they’re using the restroom and how it wasn’t being addressed appropriately.”

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