This success story was first published in NCUB’s in showcasing booklet, Partnering for Positive Change. Read the booklet in full here.

According to the NHS it’s thought around 1 in 500 people are affected by Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the substantia nigra. This leads to a reduction in a chemical called dopamine in the brain. Dopamine plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body. A reduction in dopamine is responsible for many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is life changing. Once diagnosed, patients will need long-term treatment to control their symptoms, and they may eventually have to adapt the way they do simple everyday tasks.

Charco Neurotech, an award-winning Imperial startup, is developing a medical device, CUE1, that has shown promising results for people with Parkinson’s, based on over two years of research with patients and clinicians.

CUE1 is a non-invasive medical device worn on the chest that uses controlled vibration and cueing to offer relief and improvement to a wide range of physical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The device alleviates motor symptoms, such as slowness, stiffness and freezing while walking, in people with Parkinson’s.

The company was founded in 2019 by Lucy Jung, then a student on Imperial’s Master’s Programme in Innovation Design Engineering, and physician Dr Floyd Pierres. After taking part in the Imperial-led White City Innovators programme and the MedTech SuperConnector that provided training and mentoring for entrepreneurs, they went on to receive a seed investment from the Imperial College Enterprise Fund. This early support and funding helped them establish the credibility they needed to raise $10 million in a further seed round that was reportedly the largest 2021 seed round for a health technology startup in Europe.

The Charco team are passionate about improving life for people with Parkinson’s. They also developed the ARC pen, a vibrating pen used to treat the handwriting disorder micrographia, which commonly affects Parkinson’s patients.

In late 2021, Charco announced a strategic tech partnership with the European Parkinson’s Disease Association (EPDA), a leading organisation in the global Parkinson’s community which represents Parkinson’s organisations across Europe. The company becomes EPDA’s newest Tech Partner alongside GE Healthcare and Insightec and becomes part of their wider partner community including Roche, Medtronic, Abbvie, Boston Scientific. This will support Charco’s mission to make novel therapies available to millions of people with Parkinson’s and healthcare groups, starting with the imminent launch of CUE1, which has already registered interest from over 5000 patients.

The company is also building new links with academia following the announcement of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Queen Mary University of London that will help them to establish further evidence of the device’s efficacy, with a view to eventually offering it via the NHS.

Lucy Jung, CEO and Co-founder of Charco, said: “In the past two years of working with Parkinson’s patients to develop CUE1, we’ve seen the difference the device can make. I am pleased that with this funding round, we’ll be able to get initial launch products into people with Parksinson’s hands.”

Dr Simon Hepworth, Director of Enterprise, Imperial College London, said: “We’re delighted to see the progress Charco Neurotech has made since it was founded in 2019, and proud that Imperial has supported the company throughout its journey.”