After winning Simon Cowell’s F Factor inaugural entrepreneurship prize of £10,000 earlier this year, GyroGear startup is now adding the finishing touches to its very first device, the GyroGlove. Founded by Faii Ong, this is an intelligent wearable device aimed at stabilising hand tremor in patients with Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor.
Up to 20 million people worldwide are estimated to be living with Parkinson’s disease — and 200 million with essential tremor. Most people who get Parkinson’s are aged over 50 but some are affected at a much younger age and are then exposed to a lifetime of being heavily dependent on medication. The drugs, in turn, can cause major side effects in the form of impulsive/compulsive behaviour, hallucinations and delusions. Alternatively, there is brain surgery, which does not guarantee a cure and is not available to all Parkinson’s cases.
While a number of innovators are currently developing a range of medical devices to help bridge this gap in Parkinson’s treatment, from more effective drug administration to less invasive electrical brain stimulation, 26-year-old Faii Ong, an Imperial College medical student from Singapore, has attracted investors’ attention with his purely mechanical device aimed at stabilising tremor in patients’ hands.
Faii’s wearable technology, the GyroGlove, is a small, lightweight stability device that fits on the back of the patient’s hand and uses mechanical microgyroscopes — disks that spin at up to 15,000 rotations per minute, faster than jet turbines. The spinning discs resist movement, with an overall effect that feels like moving your hand through viscous treacle. This permits movement while stabilising tremors. The GyroGlove app can track the progress of the disease, displaying data on a smartphone. ‘We intend for this to offer Parkinson’s patients, families, carers and doctors an unprecedented insight into the disease,’ Faii explains. Here he describes the inspiration behind the innovation and its progress so far.
When did the project start and how did the initial idea come about?
The idea for the glove came to me while I was working in a hospital in London. There was a 103-year-old lady, under the care of the team I was attached to, who had been in the hospital for weeks. This patient was not getting better, and the team was concerned they had missed something. One day, I noticed she had spent half an hour eating a bowl of soup, with everything going down her front. This was due to her severe hand tremors. When I asked the nurses about her condition, they said her medication had stopped working and there was nothing more they could do to help her.
How did you discover this unmet need?
The main treatment for Parkinson’s is medication-based; this lifeline is finite, lasting at most a decade. Moreover, the side effects can be debilitating, ranging from nausea, dizziness and confusion to involuntary movement, hallucinations and impulsive behaviour. Once the medication is no longer effective, the remaining treatment option would be the insertion of electrodes inside the brain (deep brain stimulation). This in turn carries the risks associated with invasive brain surgery and anaesthesia. Thus there’s a huge gap between the medication and brain surgery, and this is exactly what we’re trying to address
Have you researched your potential competitors?
Other solutions on the market include single-use applications such as a spoon designed by LiftWare, with a stated efficacy of 70%. We have been fortunate that our initial-stage prototypes have achieved bench-top efficacies of 90%.
Other applications include ARC, a pen to reduce small handwriting (micrographia) in Parkinson’s patients and HandSteady, a cup with a rotating handle. By stabilising the hand directly, the GyroGlove enables a far wider range of movement. Our focus is entirely on restoring as much independence and quality of life as possible.
Who are your team, and what experience do they have?
GyroGear has been very fortunate to not only have a diverse multidisciplinary team, but a well-qualified one. We’re based at Imperial College and have mechanical, electrical and bio engineers, working hand in glove with medics, industrial designers, programmers, architects and business students. A large and diverse bootstrapping team, together with design and manufacturing facilities at Imperial, allows us to keep costs low.
How long has it taken to get to this stage, and how many iterations has the device been through?
We’re 11 months into our project, and various advisors expected us to have spent at least £100,000 by now. But, in fact, we’ve only needed approximately £3,000 for development thus far. We’ve gone through about seven or eight iterations but right now we’re working on alpha prototypes — this is when the product is fully functional but without the final aesthetics.
What’s the next technical step?
Right now, we are focused on integrating the different components — the electronics, mechanics and harness system. We hope to launch around mid to third quarter next year. More excitingly, if we are able to stabilise the hands, which are the body’s most mechanically complex components, there will be a much larger range of applications for our gyroscope platform. We can stabilise other parts of the body, such as the legs in restless leg syndrome, or scale to different applications including surgery, sports, physiotherapy, photography.
What stage are you at with regulation?
We have spoken informally to a couple of regulatory consultants about CE marking for our product. But as the device is external and of low-risk, it requires minimal regulation. We anticipate this requiring six months to a year for approval. We will be seeking further regulatory advice towards the later stages of prototyping as safety is a primary focus of development.
What’s been the ‘magic formula’ that’s got you where you are now?
The best thing we have going for us is the people with and within GyroGear. All you see now has not be possible without our selfless, dedicated and driven team, nurtured by a solid board of advisors, and guided by absolutely brave and generous volunteers. Our focus is to recruit not just talented, driven and creative individuals, but those that care. This alone, in our drive to help as many as best as we can, is truly our secret sauce. We see first-hand the struggle and stigma that those with tremor face on a daily basis, and we are making the absolute best at this chance to restore quality of life as much as we can.
GyroGear is currently raising a seed round and are open to enquiries.
Originally published at medtechengine.com.