Meet Jack Brill, for many years he has faced the most debilitating symptom associated with Parkinson’s, freezing of gait. He describes this symptom as feeling like his feet are “glued to the floor” or “stuck in a box of cement”. Freezing of gait occurs because of a disconnect between the brain and the body. This stops the neural signal from reaching the motor neurons that should activate muscles to move, preventing people with Parkinson’s from beginning or continuing to walk (Muthukrishnan). Not only does this symptom take away people’s independence, but it is also a leading cause of falls for people living with Parkinson’s. Jack isn’t alone. 80% of those living with Parkinson’s will experience the same thing (Ono). Today, Jack has a device to help overcome this freezing, and so with him, the story of De Oro Devices begins.
A Quest and an Answer
Jack came to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) seeking a solution. Through the QL+ Program, Sidney Collin, a biomedical engineering student, was able to incorporate the leading research into a device to help with freezing of gait. Extensive research has been conducted showing the efficacy of visual and audio cues in overcoming this symptom. Both cues included in the device, the green laser line and the metronome, facilitate a change in intention which activates different neural pathways and allows people living with Parkinson’s to restore mobility (Muthukrishnan).
Physical therapists have been using these highly effective cues for years with great success but people experiencing this symptom have not had access to a simple way of using them at home.
The device is designed to be easily integrated into someone’s life by attaching to canes, walkers, and walking poles to keep people living with Parkinson’s independent and mobile.
Jack brought Sidney to a Parkinson’s support group to show off the innovative device she had invented just for him. After the meeting finished, an overwhelming number of people came up to Sidney excited about the new technology. Filled with hope, they were inquiring about when they could get their own prototype. Realizing just how impactful the device could be, Sidney expanded her team to include business-focused Cal Poly alumni, Adam Schwartz and William Thompson, to bring the NexStride to people who need it the most. The team, focused on helping others improve their quality of life, sought out the help of Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Sidney, Adam, and William began building their mission-driven company in the summer of 2018 as participants in Cal Poly’s startup accelerator program.
Since creating the NexStride, the startup team has been recognized for their work that restores mobility, relieves anxiety, and helps people living with Parkinson’s retain their independence.
In 2019, De Oro Devices was awarded:
- First place at the San Jose BIOMEDevice Startup Pitch Competition
- First place and $100,000 in funding at the Central Coast Angel Conference
- First place for their Elevator Pitch and the Sly Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at TCU’s Values and Ventures Competition
One Small Device. One Big Step.
The NexStride began with one person, Jack, who sought to elevate his quality of life while living with Parkinson’s. Because of his initiative, the device will go on to help many others do the same. After over a year of product development, testing, design for manufacturing, and working with the local Parkinson’s community to create the perfect device, the NexStride has officially launched. The team is excited for the device to help more people walk with confidence again.
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Muthukrishnan, Niveditha, et al. “Cueing Paradigms to Improve Gait and Posture in Parkinson’s Disease: A Narrative Review.” Sensors (Basel, Switzerland), vol. 19, no. 24, 2019, pp. Sensors (Basel, Switzerland), December 11, 2019, Vol.19(24).
Ono, Sayaka Asari, et al. “Freezing of Gait in Parkinson’s Disease Is Associated with Reduced 6-FFluoro—Tyrosine Uptake in the Locus Coeruleus.” Parkinson’s Disease, vol. 2016, no. 2016, 2016, p. 5.