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Tackling Parkinson’s with tech: Cambridge company raises £205K investment from The Imperial College Innovation Fund

Charco

Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder that destroys the brain’s nerve cells in charge of controlling movement. What’s worrying is that there is no cure to this disease. As per reports, over 145,000 people in the UK and 10 million people across the world (aged over 60) are affected by Parkinson’s. The challenging aspect is the difficulty in diagnosing the disease with the existing care procedure wherein patients are treated with a drug called Levodopa.

Many medtech companies come up with solutions that intend to make it easier for patients suffering from Parkinson’s diseases. Cambridge-based Charco Neurotech is one of them. Founded by Lucy Jung and Floyd Pierres in 2019, Charco comprises a team of design, engineering, medical professionals and eyes to improve the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s.

The company works with the vision to use simple, non-invasive solutions that can make an impact on the daily lives of patients.

£205K investment

The Imperial College Innovation Fund has pumped the first investment of £205K into this London-based medtech. Notably, Charco Neurotech is the first investment by the Imperial College Innovation Fund, an early-stage investment fund launched at Imperial in early 2020. It is managed by Parkwalk Advisors and is part of a £500K seed round pumped in by invertors including Amadeus Capital Partners, Crista Galli, RCA and Oxbridge Angels. The fresh fund will be used to launch CUE1 in the UK/EU market in early 2021.

Lucy Jung, CEO and Co-founder of Charco Neurotech, said: “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. We are excited to continue our work on the device and we look forward to the outcome of our proposed clinical trials.”

Dr Brijesh Roy, Seed Investment Manager at Imperial College London, said: “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 first investment will go to support such an enthusiastic and capable team making such an impact in patients’ lives.”

Moray Wright, CEO of Parkwalk, said: “Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating condition and we’re proud to be managing a fund that invests in companies such as Charco Neurotech, which seeks to improve the quality of life of those who suffer from Parkinson’s. Imperial is one of the world’s great universities, with a particularly strong reputation in deep science and technology. Its start up companies are developing disruptive technologies that can have global impact and benefit wider society, as well as create the potential for significant investor returns.”

CUE1 for Parkinson’s patients

Charco develops a non-invasive vibrating device called CUE1 to help manage Parkinson’s symptoms. The device attaches to the patient’s chest using a medical adhesive, and its quiet electric motor produces controlled vibrations. These vibrations can be managed with a companion app that alters the wave shape and frequency of stimulation applied. Notably, the vibration provides two scientifically validated benefits to People with Parkinson’s.

Charco’s internal user testing of CUE1 with Parkinson’s volunteers has demonstrated that this device has potential to treat whole-body symptoms.

Notably, the device can be worn all through the day and can be integrated with other patient support tools including medication reminders that usually require separate devices or apps. It is possible to control CUE1 through an app. Its symptom progression monitoring system uses simple digital games and self-assessment questionnaires based on standardised evaluation tools.

In the pilot testing in an informal setting by the team, CUE1 resulted in an average time improvement of 16% to complete a number of motor tasks. A recent testing demonstrated a 9-point improvement in the MDS-UPDRS scale, which is seen by clinicians as the gold standard of measurement of Parkinsonian symptoms. Charco wants to come up with an effective treatment for people with Parkinson’s with planned clinical trials.