Lucy co-founded the business while studying for a double masters in innovation design engineering at Imperial College London. In February 2021, the Imperial College Investment Fund (ICIF) announced that it had invested £205,000 in the start-up.
Since then, the company has seen significant grown, with Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge becoming the first hospital in the world to offer Parkinson's inpatients the chance to try the device.
With some 13,000 people across 121 countries on the waiting list to receive CUE1, Charco is now eyeing US expansion, as it waits for the US Food and Drug Administration to review and approve the device.
BPR: Could you give me an overview of the work you do at Charco Neurotech and what the company focuses on?
We’re a team of engineers, scientists and designers who have been brought together by a common purpose: to bring back smiles for people with Parkinson’s. We have developed the CUE1, which is a non-invasive, wearable medical device that alleviates symptoms for people with Parkinson’s. My work at Charco mainly involves communicating and coordinating with members of the team to ensure we keep our values, timings, quality, and at the centre of our structure, the care we give to our community.
BPR: Could you tell us about Parkinson’s disease, the impact it has on patients and the ways in which their quality of life can be improved?
Parkinson’s is, unfortunately, the fastest-growing neurodegenerative condition, causing motor as well as non-motor impairments. Its impact on each person varies depending on their individual characteristics, however, it mainly leads to tremors, slowness of movement, and stiffness. Quality of life when living with Parkinson's can be improved in many ways, including physical, occupational therapy, or specifically tailored therapy for specific symptoms such as speech therapy. Additionally, supportive care and lifestyle modifications can also have an amazing impact on the quality of life, where I would like to personally highlight the benefits that exercise could provide.
BPR: When did your interest in science develop?
My interest in science developed naturally as I pursued my studies in industrial design. I discovered a fascination for problem-solving using technology, encompassing both hardware and software. It was exhilarating to apply scientific principles in overcoming challenges. I delved into using technology to enhance the quality of life for individuals with long-term conditions, which required extensive research in studying ergonomic design, human body mechanics and physiology. This hands-on experience deepened my curiosity and passion for science.
Personal experiences, more recently, have led me to learn about long-term conditions, which is how I got to learn about Parkinson's. Since then, I have learned everything I can about current as well as past methods of treating Parkinson's, which is how I got to know about Professor Jean-Martin Charcot and his studies with vibration back in the 1800s!
BPR: What piqued your interest?
Initial projects that I have worked on used technology to assist individuals with long-term conditions. However, with the CUE1, we were able to improve movement symptoms which took us from assisting tools to an intervention. When we were able to see the difference that the device was making for individuals' lives and that there was a further potential to improve their lives by understanding the core mechanism of action, it made me curious and excited me the most.
BPR: Can you tell us about your journey to where you are now?
My journey has taken me from the very beginning, meeting with a gentleman with Parkinson's back in 2014, to today developing devices and solutions for people with Parkinson’s, actively providing support to improve their quality of life. With over 1,500 people using the CUE1 and over 16,000 accumulated on the waiting list from over 121 countries, it has been incredible to see how we built the solution and the team. I consider this our first step towards more and more innovations for people with Parkinson’s and long-term conditions.
BPR: Have you encountered any bumps in the road along the way?
It is a constant learning curve and because of that, it has been such an exciting journey. There are new challenges every day coming from different areas, such as manufacturing, user testing, finance, or operations. It’s not about whether there was an issue, as there always will be, but about how you dealt with it and what you learnt from it.
BPR: What do you feel most passionate about in your current role?
Charco's vision is to restore joy for individuals with Parkinson's by utilising technology and innovation to enhance their quality of life. This aspiration serves as my primary motivation, as it is deeply rewarding to recognize that we can truly make a difference in their daily lives. Even the smallest change can profoundly impact individuals with long-term conditions. Embarking on this incredible journey has provided me with invaluable opportunities to learn from individuals who share the same vision and motivation. Collaborating with such individuals is genuinely exhilarating for me.