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From smart mirror to smart cane: Tech startups combating Parkinson’s disease in 2022

startups combating parkinson's disease

As per data from Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with this condition each year and this number is over 10 million worldwide.

To combat various biotech and wearable companies are leading the way in disease research, and drug development to help people with Parkinson’s. Mostly, these startups use AI and other technologies to bolster the diagnosis, treatment, and understanding the disorder. We have already seen medtech startup De Oro secure funding this year to ensure their product reaches those who need it the most.

In addition, we saw Synchron which specialises in brain-computer interfaces surpass Neuralink in implanting its first device in a patient to translate human spoken commands into computer commands and help people with neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s.

While, tech startups are working towards improving the quality of life of seniors living with Parkinson’s, at the same time VC investors are also gearing up to help them by pumping funds. Today TFN takes a look at some of the promising startups helping people fight Parkinson’s.

Nexstride founders
Image credits: Nexstride

NexStride (US)

Founder/s: Sidney Collin, William Thompson
Founded year: 2018
Total funding: $4.3M

NexStride from California is a developer of a medical device designed to assist people living with Parkinson’s disease overcome freezing of gait. The company’s device is composed of a green laser line and a metronome that attaches to any cane or walker and uses clinically proven sensory cues, enabling patients to re-establish the connection between the brain and the body and allow the user to walk smoothly again.

In June 2022, NexStride picked up $2.8 million to commercialise its portable gadget. The round was led by True Wealth Ventures with participation from AARP, StartUp Health, Capital Factory, Wai Mohala Ventures, and others.

Lookinglass founder
Image credits: Lookinglass

Lookinglass (Australia)

Founder/s: Simon Cullen
Founded year: 2018
Total funding: NA

Parkinson’s disease affects motor functions and other health aspects such as overall fitness but some of these symptoms can be observed visually. Though the diagnosis is not easy and could often be mistaken for other degenerative illnesses, Australia’s Lookinglass offers a smart mirror, which feeds digital information to anyone in its reflection. The mirror observes users’ movements and can apply its machine learning and computer vision processes to detect early signs of Parkinson’s disease among others.

Medrhythms team
Image credits: Medrhythms

MedRhythms (US)

Founder/s: Owen McCarthy, Brian Harris
Founded year: 2013
Total funding: $32.3M

Another US-based startup that has mushroomed to help people with Parkinson’s disease is MedRhythms. It is a digital therapeutics company that uses sensors, music, and software to build evidence-based neurologic interventions to measure and improve walking. Its product pipeline consists of multiple clinical programs for neurologic conditions, including multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

Late last year, MedRhythms secured $25 million in Series B funding co-led by Morningside Ventures and Advantage Capital along with participation from existing investor Werth Family Investment Associates.

Aleva Neurotherapeutics
Image credits: Aleva Neurotherapeutics

Aleva Neurotherapeutics (Switzerland)

Founder/s: Andre Mercanzini
Founded year: 2008
Total funding: $69.1M

A deep tech startup from Switzerland, Aleva Neurotherapeutics develops the next-gen implantable Deep Brain Stimulation systems based on MEMS technology. The company’s unique microfabricated devices enable Target Specific Stimulation and optimisation of current therapies. They will also permit targeting new areas of the brain. Its first application will be in Deep Brain Stimulation for indications such as Parkinson’s Disease and Essential Tremor.

This year, Aleva Neurotherapeutics received a letter of approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an investigational device exemption (IDE) study assessing the company’s directSTIM directional deep brain stimulation (DBS) system.

Sano Genetics founders
Image credits: Sano Genetics

Sano Genetics (UK)

Founder/s: Charlotte Guzzo, Patrick Short, William Jones
Founded year: 2017
Total funding: $15.2M

Developer of user-centric personal health and genomic data sharing platform designed to facilitate a direct connection between users and researchers, Sano Genetics is headquartered in Cambridge. The platform offers research into many common disorders such as eczema, diabetes, and depression, Parkinson’s as well as rare diseases like muscular dystrophy and lets individuals opt-in or out of different studies. Earlier this year, Sano Genetics raised $11 million in a round led by MMC Ventures.

MedEXO Robotics
Image credits: MedEXO Robotics

MedEXO Robotics (Hong Kong)

Founder/s: Denis Huen
Founded year: 2015
Total funding: NA

MedEXO Robotics, which is a healthtech startup specialising in medical robots and assisted health sectors is based in Hong Kong. The company develops affordable, convenient, socially-inclusive wearable devices that can re-equip patients, disabled and elderly the power to live with active lifestyles. It improves the quality of life of such people.

Their first product is a wearable device for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease and it lets them overcome the “freezing of gait” symptom, which affects 26% of patients with mild Parkinson’s and 80% with severe Parkinson’s disease.

Aspen Neuroscience co-founder
Image credits: Aspen Neuroscience

Aspen Neuroscience (US)

Founder/s: Andres Bratt-Leal, Jeanne Loring
Founded year: 2018
Total funding: $224M

Talking of starting helping people with Parkinson’s disease, there is San Diego-based Aspen Neuroscience. It is a biotech startup developing autologous cell therapies, including iPSC-derived autologous neuron replacement treatment for people with Parkinson’s disease. Aspen combines stem cell biology with the latest genomic and artificial intelligence approaches to investigate restorative treatments specific to patients.

A few months back, Aspen scored $147.5 million in Series B funding co-led by GV, LYFE Capital and Revelation Partners along with participation from a slew of investors to conduct the planned studies of its lead product for Parkinson’s disease.

SERG Technologies founder
Image credits: SERG Technologies

SERG Technologies (UK)

Founder/s: Christos Kapatos, Ravi Vaidyanathan, Samuel Wilson
Founded year: 2019
Total funding: $2.1M

While US companies dominate the list, the UK is no weaker with many companies in this industry. There is SERG Technologies headquartered in London is one such startup that develops devices to diagnose and monitor Parkinson’s disease. SERG makes smart wearable devices and offers sensors that detect tiny, subconscious movements that indicate intent this is turned into control signals for everything from TVs to smart prosthetics, with less response time. It enables early diagnosis, continuous and passive monitoring, and non-invasive treatment of Parkinsonian symptoms.

Last month, SERG Technologies picked up £1.6 million in funding from Mercia, Velocity Partners, Newable, the Imperial College Innovation Fund, a leading Japanese corporation, and private investors. The funds will be used to expand its team and accelerate technology development, as it plans to launch its NuRO-connected platform in the UK and US.

OccamzRazor founder
Image credits: OccamzRazor

OccamzRazor (US)

Founder/s: Katharina Sophia Volz
Founded year: 2015
Total funding: $10.6M

Based in New York, OccamzRazor is on a mission to create the first curative treatments for complex brain ageing diseases such as Parkinson’s. It was founded to help patients with brain ageing disorders who lack treatment options either to reverse or half the disease. Earlier this year, OccamzRazor netted a $6.1 million investment led by Jeff Dean along with a slew of other investors to finance the launch of its AI-enabled discovery pipeline and advance pre-clinical development in Parkinson’s.

Speechvive founder
Image credits: SpeechVive

SpeechVive (US)

Founder/s: Jessica Huber, Steve Mogensen
Founded year: 2011
Total funding: $3.2M

SpeechVive offers a straightforward solution, a smart earpiece that helps people with Parkinson’s disease speak more loudly and communicate more effectively. The Purdue University-affiliated medical device company is dedicated to treating the speech conditions of over 1.5 million people in the United States who suffer from chronic neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.

Back in 2020, SpeechVive raised $1.5 million in capital from a VC and angel investors to scale the development of its wearable medical device that intends to help people with Parkinson’s disease.

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