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Feinstein Institutes back startup that uses AI to aid paralysis patients

Feinstein Institutes researcher and Neuvotion founder Chad Bouton

Feinstein Institutes researcher and Neuvotion founder Chad Bouton holds the patch used to stimulate hand movement. Credit: The Feinstein Institutes/Lee S. Weissman

The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research has spun out a startup whose artificial-intelligence device could help paralyzed patients regain the use of their hands.

Earlier this month, the startup, Neuvotion Inc., announced a $1.1 million funding round from the Long Island Angel Network and the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network based in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Feinstein Institutes lab

The Darien, Connecticut, startup is in the process of transferring research developed in the laboratory of Chad Bouton, vice president of advanced engineering at the Feinstein Institutes, a unit of Northwell Health. Bouton also is founder of Neuvotion.

The company's initial device, NeuStim, is worn as a patch on the patient's forearm and is being positioned for use in clinics and at home.

The wireless device uses sensors to read the body language of the patient and translate "those invisible patterns" to provide electrical stimulation to the appropriate muscles and nerves, Bouton said.

That is possible because the muscles of the shoulders are operative for many stroke or spinal-cord injury patients, while their hands remain impaired.

"You can't feed yourself, or button your shirt," Bouton said. "It's extremely frustrating."

Commercial launch planned

Bouton said that several patents have been filed, but cautioned that development is at its "early stages." Plans call for clinical trials and commercial launch as early as the end of 2022.

Travis Millman, Neuvotion's chief operating officer, said that the company has begun the process of selecting a manufacturing partner and plans to market the NeuStim "at a disruptive price point" for use in clinics and at home.

Millman said that he expects that the device would be covered by health insurance and the NeuStim technology could be extended to applications beyond the initial product.

A 'platform' for development

"We view NeuStim more as a platform than as a point product for use with just a single condition," he said in an email.

Plans call for the device to undergo clinical trials at several sites, including Good Shepherd, which has several facilities.

"We feel strongly that this technology can help transform lives for people with spinal cord injuries, strokes and other neurological conditions," Michael Spigel, president and chief executive of Good Shepherd, said in a statement.

The NeuStim device has an array of electrodes and lights that show where stimulation is occurring.

Bouton said laboratory users ruled out stimulation devices that use voice recognition because they didn't want to draw attention to themselves and difficulties in using it in a noisy environment.

As with other electronic devices, the stimulation device can be recharged.

During device development in his laboratory, patients would ask if they could get access to the technology at home, Bouton said.

"Now we're finally able to say, 'Yes, there's a company working on that.'"

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