Investment Backs Vibrating Device That Eases Motor Symptoms

Joana Carvalho, PhD avatar

by Joana Carvalho, PhD |

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The Imperial College Investment Fund (ICIF) has invested £205,000 (about $283,000) in Charco Neurotech to support the development of CUE1, a non-invasive wearable device that uses controlled vibration to ease stiffness and slowness of movement in people with Parkinson’s disease.

According to Lucy Jung, former student at Imperial College and one of Charco’s co-founders, CUE1 is a simple device that has the potential to help patients with Parkinson’s walk and perform fine motor tasks. Charco Neurotech is planning to launch CUE1 in the U.S. and Europe in the coming months.

“Having worked closely with Parkinson’s patients over the past few years, we believe that CUE1 has the potential to significantly improve their symptoms through its unique controlled vibration technology,” Jung, who also is the CEO of Charco Neurotech, said in a press release.

“We are excited to continue our work on the device and we look forward to the outcome of our proposed clinical trials,” Jung added.

Charco’s CUE1 device is attached to a patient’s chest using medical grade adhesive. The device emits vibrations, which are controlled by proprietary algorithms, to provide focused stimulation and cueing that are expected to improve patients’ motor performance and ease freezing.

Although the exact mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of controlled vibrations for Parkinson’s are not fully understood, some scientists believe that vibrations may act as an indirect stimulus for motor neurons — nerve cells responsible for controlling movements — that ultimately lead to improved motor control.

With support from several charity organizations and patient groups, Charco has already completed an initial round of tests of its new device in patients.

Thus far, user feedback has been positive, with many patients reporting they felt the device helped ease some of their motor symptoms and stating they would like to wear it all the time. Others noted CUE1 seemed to boost the effectiveness of other medications normally used to control Parkinson’s motor symptoms, such as levodopa, suggesting the new device may be integrated and combined easily with standard therapies.

Charco is now planning to use the funds provided by ICIF, an early-stage investment fund that aims to support startup companies closely linked to Imperial College, to launch a clinical trial to validate the device’s effectiveness at easing Parkinson’s motor symptoms in a larger group of patients. Funds will be used to support the device’s manufacture and commercialization.

ICIF’s £205,000 investment is part of a £500,000 (about $691,000) seed round that has been led by private investors and other early-stage venture funds.

“Lucy and her team are just one great example of high-quality startups founded by Imperial’s staff, student and alumni community. Since launching ICIF in the summer, we have met hundreds of amazing founders and I am delighted that the first investment will go to support such an enthusiastic and capable team making such an impact in patients’ lives,” said Brijesh Roy, seed investment manager at Imperial College London.

In addition to funds from ICIF, Charco previously received more than £200,000 (about $276,000 ) in grants, prizes, and investment funds raised by the Royal College of Art.