Charco Neurotech is a medical technology startup dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with long term health conditions. In 2013 we met a gentleman who said “I am very happy now but I look angry because Parkinson’s disease took away my smile”. Since then, our aim has been to bring smiles back for people with Parkinson’s.
CUE1, a non-invasive wearable device for Parkinson’s, utilises pulsed cueing and focused vibrotactile stimulation to reduce symptoms of slowness and stiffness resulting in improved movement. CUE1 offers a unique, non-invasive approach to increasing quality of life for people with Parkinson’s. Using removable medical adhesive to rest on the sternum, CUE1 can provide immediate aid, activated by the simple push of a button.
Pilot studies have shown promise across a number of tests. On the Parkinson’s gold standard “MDS-UPDRS” test, testers improved by an average of 9 points (~3 is the threshold at which the improvement is considered clinically important). We also used pressure-sensing insoles to capture objective measurements of our testers gait. Analysis of key metrics known to correlate with Parkinson’s showed that with CUE1, 100% of participants improved across at least one metric, and 60% showing improvement across two metrics (peak medial heel pressure and double support time). Finally, we tested participants maximum tapping speed and “timed-up-and-go” speed, on both of which many participants have improved. Most importantly participants felt their movement was smoother and better controlled. Our development process starts and ends by listening to and testing with people with Parkinson’s. As such we have incorporated additional features into CUE1 such as a medication alert system and a symptom-tracking application at the request of our initial user testers.
We believe that the CUE1 system has potential beyond providing immediate personal aid to people with Parkinson’s. Our users can provide vital medication, usage and symptom data through the device and app that will enable us, clinical doctors and medical researchers to push our understanding of the complex and heterogeneous disease. Our vision is to be able to predict intervention outcomes and help people with Parkinson’s find their most optimum management regime immediately, without months or years of experimentation.
Our present activities include further user testing, finalisation of the CUE1 design and preparations to achieve scientific validation of the device’s efficacy in clinical trials. We are also nearing completion of our current investment round, the funds for which will go towards producing our first run of products as well as the tooling required to scale-up manufacture. We hope to launch CUE1 in 2021.
We believe that simple, non-invasive technologies like CUE1 have the potential to greatly improve quality of life for people with long term conditions, and to this end, we are continuously researching new treatment methods based in science. We have mechanical engineers and software developers currently working on the development of our next innovation to help people with Parkinson’s.
Charco’s experience with Accelerate Cambridge
Charco joined the Accelerate Cambridge programme at a very early stage in our development as just two founders with one advisor last September. Thanks to our coaching sessions we have developed a diverse skill set with which to build our startup, including business planning, marketing strategy, pitching, raising funds and more. The Accelerate program’s central position within the Cambridge startup ecosystem has allowed us access to an incredible network of coaches and fellow founders, whose advice and camaraderie has been indispensable in Charco’s development.
Opportunities provided by Santander Universities grants such as the Accelerate Project Award, have also greatly aided our growth. Since we started last September, we have amassed a team of 10 members and 7 advisors, much of which was made possible by the funds we received from such grants. We were also recently named Judges’ choice winners for the National Santander Emerging Entrepreneurs Competition representing Cambridge.
Tips for SME’s in dealing with the pandemic
Keeping an eye on what is going on in the global market and getting advice from seniors and experts was absolutely key for Charco in coping with the situation. During the pandemic, we regularly contacted our coaches and advisors to keep our strategy up to date. In the face of adversity, we always focussed on “how are we going to get through this and get to our end goal”.
During the pandemic, the Charco team took part in setting up the ShieldNHS project to combat the PPE shortage. With our background and connections,
we were able to manufacture and donate over 63,000 shields to over 80 healthcare organisations. Although running this project alongside our business was a huge challenge, it created a strong bond between team members founded on the shared dedication to making a positive impact.
Charco has recently completed our latest round of user testing with CUE1 and you can see testing videos here. The testing showed promising results. We recently opened a priority list, offering early access to CUE1 and a discount on release. We were blown away by the response, filling all the available slots in just 3 days. We have therefore decided to open a waiting list where those who unfortunately missed out on a priority list spot may register their interest in CUE1 and help us along in our efforts to make CUE1 available as soon as possible. We are aiming to launch in early 2021.