Med-Tech Innovation News caught up with the CEO of Charco Neurotech, Lucy Jung, whose company picked up this year’s Med-Tech Innovation Award for Design.
First of all, congratulations on winning the award, how do you feel?
We are so excited to win this award. It is the best title we could hope for; a design award of Med-Tech innovation. Design, translating as “problem solving”, is what we care for – designing a medical device that improves quality of life for people is our goal. It means so much to our team. Thank you.
Where did the idea come from for Charco Neurotech’s CUE1 for Parkinson’s?
One of our early participants talked about how he found that his massage chair would temporarily improve his Parkinson’s symptoms. We developed various prototypes and started investigating how to identify and replicate the elements of the massage chair helped him to move better.
What things did you have to consider when designing and developing the device?
With our early prototypes, we worked together with our volunteers with Parkinson’s to adjust and tweak the stimulation and positioning of the device to produce the optimum effect. The usability of the device was also very important part of our journey: keeping in mind the challenges our users faced with their movement, we designed the device closely with them to make it desirable, easy to use, and effective.
It provides focussed stimulation; how do you measure if the device is having the desired effect?
Charco has tested the device using measurements that are clinically important and objective. We have used the MDS Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), tapping test, and timed up & go test, all of which showed significant improvement across the participants. We also had participants try everyday tasks like typing, taking a card out of a wallet and strolling around the garden, the results of which were very promising. Perhaps most important, however, is whether users of the device feel any improvement themselves; people with Parkinson’s have claimed that their movement was easier, faster, and more coordinated while using CUE1.
It’s currently used for Parkinson’s but can this device be used, or adapted for use for other conditions?
Absolutely! Studies of focused vibrotactile stimulation have shown its potential in treating other neurological conditions. It may benefit people who suffer from stroke, spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis.
Interestingly, Charco has also been investigating the potential benefits of the CUE1 for people with stammer, and to date it has shown average of 80% reduction in participants’ stammering episodes.
With that in mind, are there any plans for further development?
Charco’s aim first and foremost is to improve quality of life for people with Parkinson’s, and furthermore, to improve the quality of life for those long-term conditions. We are currently preparing to set up a production line for the launch of CUE1 for Parkinson’s in 2021. Additionally we are developing a software platform that will supplement the CUE1 system. With smart, movement-tracking games, data recording and machine learning it will allow both people with Parkinson’s and healthcare professionals to better track and manage symptoms over time.
Anything else you’d like to add? You can include a short victory speech here, too, if you’d like to!
We are very excited to be the winner of 2020 Med-Tech Innovation Award, and this will encourage us, our team, to carry on with our journey to improve quality of life for people with Parkinson’s. Thank you!