ParkinsonTwo young inventors were recognised at last night’s AXA PPP Health Tech & You Awards for inventions that could help revolutionise the lives of people living with Parkinson’s disease.

The students, Joon Faii Ong and Lise Pape, both from Imperial College London, were shortlisted at the awards, which aim to empower people everywhere to use technology to lead healthier lives and be more in control of their health and wellbeing. 

Lise and Faii were shortlisted after taking part in MedTechSouthEast, an accelerator programme from Design Council and MedCity, which helps medtech entrepreneurs develop and commercialise products focused on independent living.

Winner Lise’s design is the Path Finder shoe, which helps people who suffer from ‘freezing of gait’, described as feet remaining ‘glued to the floor’. Each year, 38% of people with Parkinson's disease suffer from falls. Additionally, falls represent the most frequent and serious type of accident in people aged 65 and over and currently cost the NHS £2.3 billion every year.

Lise’s company, Walk with Path, has developed a solution in shoes mounted with lasers that project green lines ahead as the person walks, activated by a sensor in each heel that monitors the user’s walking pattern and pace. The shoe produces a line which provides a visual cue to step ‘over’.

Faii’s device is an unobtrusive glove that aids people with debilitating hand tremors. Faii, a medical student at Imperial College London, devised the idea of the GyroGlove after seeing an elderly woman with Parkinson’s struggle to feed herself in hospital due to severe hand tremor. The glove uses gyroscopic engineering principles mixed with hi-tech sensors to counteract the tremors and stabilise the hand. The effect feels akin to moving one’s hand in thick treacle, where deliberate movement is permitted, but tremors are dampened.

About 10 million people worldwide and 127,000 people in the UK are affected by Parkinson’s, a progressive neurological condition that affects movement. There is currently no cure for the disease, and medication used to control it can have side effects including involuntary movements and impulsive behaviour. The two innovations are drug-free, which could save millions on expensive medication and avoids significant side effects.

Design Council Chief Executive, John Mathers, said: “The independence and freedom inventions like Lise and Faii’s can give to people with debilitating conditions is inspiring. Their combination of entrepreneurial spirit and designer’s minds are truly innovating the healthcare landscape. It’s a fine example of how design can improve lives, and Design Council is proud to have helped them on their way to market.”