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Dragon’s Den delight for Cambridgeshire inventor Paul Westerman who created device after narrowly avoiding death

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Following his appearance on Dragon’s Den earlier this month, RBR Active director Paul Westerman says he has been “blown away” by the interest in his device, which drastically reduces the risk of thrombosis.

RBR Active devices could be of benefit to long-haul fliers
RBR Active devices could be of benefit to long-haul fliers

The pitch has resulted in discussions with airlines, care homes and sports clubs, and raised awareness of the dangers of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which, along with venous thrombosis (blood clots), kills 30,000 people in the UK every year.

Paul Westerman was nearly one of them: his pitch began by telling the investors how he had “collapsed to the floor, dead” with a massive pulmonary embolism in 2011, days before his wedding.

He recovered, and afterwards researched the dangers of sitting for long periods in care settings, aircraft or while gaming, determined to address the issue. Paul became a trustee of Thrombosis UK and a committee member of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in its examination of thromboembolic diseases.

The device breakthrough came in 2017 when he got to know Professor Richard Beasley, a New Zealand-based academic physician and the founder and director of the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand.

Prof Beasley found that, after 90 minutes of sitting at a desk, blood flow was down 50 per cent and, at that juncture, the threat of a blood clot looms.

“We got talking through a NICE committee we were both on at the time and I asked him about his research and he said it does everything it claimed, and one day the leg flow device turned up and we went from there,” Paul explains.

“I read his research, and he’d designed the device in 2014 and then it was sitting in a drawer. The idea was to increase the blood flow in the legs and thereby lessen the risk of DVT.”

Paul Westerman, RBR Active director. Picture: BBC
Paul Westerman, RBR Active director. Picture: BBC

His pitch was heard by Peter Jones, who spoke on the programme about his own DVT experience, which saw him admitted to a Los Angeles hospital.

“I found it very moving – I was so proud of Peter Jones and what he said,” Paul remarks.

At the end of the March 3 show Paul received a £50,000 offer for a 35 per cent stake from Touker Suleyman, who said he would be “willing to explore” more about the leg flow product and the clinical trials that have taken place.

Westerman replied: “I am more than happy with those terms and I would love to be working with you.”

The device is based on two moulded plastic cups which you put on the floor: you use your feet, including heels and toes, to exercise your legs. The device has been clinically tested, is MHRA-approved, and is antimicrobial, meaning that it can be used by various people without risk of infection.

RBR Active, which is based at St John’s Innovation Centre, is run by Paul and his wife Ellisa, who live in Sawtry.

RBR Active is approved by the sports world
RBR Active is approved by the sports world

He adds: “We’re talking to a potential distributor in Germany, and another in the US. I want to make this a product every airline has on board – you could fit 450 leg flows on one airline trolley. It’s sterile so it can be used by multiple users, which is good for NHS trusts.

“It’s a great product for gamers – and for anyone sat in front of their screens for hours on end. That includes businesses as well, such as call centres. HR should be providing them to their staff.”

Currently, the dragon is doing his due diligence. But whatever happens, says Paul, “having those 15 minutes in front of 10 million people has opened the door to people talking about thrombosis or blood clots”.

He adds: “It’s been utterly fantastic, and to know the product can save lives is phenomenal.”

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