This morning FIGUR8, a new digital platform designed to measure and track body movements as a biomarker, launched with a boost of $7.5 million seed funding. The funding was led by P5 Health Ventures with participation from E14 Fund.
Co-created by researchers at MIT Media Lab and Massachusetts General Hospital Sports Science Lab, the technology was developed with the goal of creating a baseline and then pinpointing risks or dysfunctions. The female-led startup has initially focused on helping elite althetes improve their skills and decrease risk of injury; however, the company said in the future it could help with Parkinson’s disease.
WHAT THEY DO
The product uses its FlexTech sensor technology, which can measure muscle movement and joint angles in 3D. The company says that in a single movement assessment there are more than a million data points which are then analyzed by its propriety algorithm. This in turn can give clinicians biomechanical insights.
“The technology comes from us trying to find the middle ground between the elite only 'biomechanics labs' and the everyday 'visual and hands-on assessments' of a clinician. Up until now, it was next to impossible to get skeletal movement outside of a laboratory setting, and clinicians were forced to exclusively use hands on assessments which leads to variation in care,” FIGUR8 CEO, Dr. Nan-Wei Gong, told MobiHealthNews in an email. “Our initial goal is to bring 'lab to field' for everyone to better understand their body movement. During the R&D phase, we invented the sensor fusion solution and created a sensing technology that’s more accurate in muscle signal and more user friendly to measure joint movement.”
Currently the technology is being used on elite athletes but in the future, Gong said she sees other patient populations benefiting.
“Our digital health movement platform collects movement biomarkers. In Parkinson’s, there are known biomarkers like the gait and tremor,” Gong said. “Many of these symptoms occur years before the patient is officially diagnosed with the disease. We see FIGUR8 as the de facto health assessment tool for your annual health exam, and we will be able to spot these symptoms early on to prevent, early diagnose and treat these diseases.”
WHAT IT’S FOR
The new funding will be put towards supporting the technology's launch.
“We used our seed funding to develop, test and bring our technology to market,” Gong said. “Our milestone down the road is to implement our solution with the elite PT/training centers on the general assessment and go through the regulatory process of becoming a medical device.”
This isn’t the first company to use sensors to help monitor neuromuscular conditions and states. In 2015 Great Lakes NeuroTechnologies, which makes mobile software and wearable devices for monitoring symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, released a product that includes two small sensors worn by the user on the wrist and ankle throughout the day.
Additionally, in April wrist-worn Parkinson’s disease monitors developed by Melbourne, Australia-based Global Kinetics Corporations were deployed to UK patients thanks to a new project headed by the University of Plymouth and University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHPNT).
ON THE RECORD
“Measuring musculoskeletal performance and recovery has historically been limited to visual and hands-on assessments, providing little to no quantifiable data,” Habib Haddad of E14 Fund, said in a statement. “This limitation makes accurate, large-scale and cost-effective treatment assessments nearly impossible. We believe FIGUR8 has identified a significant technological breakthrough and look forward to advancing the understanding of human movement through the company’s groundbreaking sensor technologies.”