Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability in the world. Only in Europe, nearly 1.5 million people suffer a stroke annually and the consequences can be devastating for survivors as it can bring a life-long disability.

To achieve an effective movement recovery, stroke survivors must perform frequent rehabilitation exercises of good movement quality. However, with over 9.5 million stroke survivors in Europe, healthcare costs amount to over €60B/year. Healthcare providers are overloaded and struggle to address the intensive rehabilitation needs of stroke survivors. 

Consequently, therapies are heavily reliant on self-rehabilitation at home through manual and repetitive exercises that patients do not adhere to, leading to recovery rates as low as 12%. Current rehabilitation therapies are not intensive enough and lack long-term support for patients.

NeuroVirt is a MedTech company on a mission to provide high-quality rehabilitation. NeuroVirt’s team have developed the first AI-driven Virtual Reality system that enables effective, intensive at-home and in-clinic post-stroke independent quality rehabilitation of the entire upper limb in just one device, without the need for constant clinical supervision. The solution uses VR (Virtual Reality) technology to gamify the rehabilitation process and AI to detect and correct non-optimal movement patterns in real time during gameplay, just like a physiotherapist would do during a rehabilitation session.

Strata’s team has been supporting Neurovirt in their grant funding acquisition efforts and we are excited to contribute to their laudable mission. Dr. Eve Gregoriou, CEO of Neurovirt, tells us about the experience of founding such a company and developing this disruptive technology.

Background and vision

Dr. Eve Gregoriou holds a PhD in clinical and Movement Neurosciences having completed this at the ARMLab, Institute of Neurology, UCL (University College London). Their thesis focused on improving the use of brain stimulation applications, ultimately to help stroke survivors’ recovery journeys.

“We know that 80% of stroke survivors have upper-limb impairments post-stroke, which is one of the main causes of disability in the world. The consensus is that they must receive high-intensity and high dose of movement rehabilitation to see better and faster outcomes. However, less than 12% of stroke survivors recover in the first six months; this is because the healthcare system is overloaded and provides less than 10% of the recommended hours of rehabilitation”- explained Dr. Eve Gregoriou.

“Our purpose is to improve recovery, and the quality of life of stroke survivors, engaging them in the necessary rehabilitation that will benefit them at home. Although they are provided exercises to do at home, these are often perceived too mundane to keep long-term efforts at home, and there is no way to monitor or visualize improvements. We believe gamification is a great way for them to stay engaged and adhere to exercises, whilst providing further incentive through data that shows both themselves and clinicians their progress. Remote technology such as immersive VR is the best way to address their needs as it is portable, consists of both cameras and sensors to track movement patterns, and is much more engaging than games on tablets”.

Current projects and future perspectives

The NeuroVirt team has been working on their technology for four years now:

“Our projects consist of constant research and product development, leveraging up and coming software and hardware technology in the XR industry to provide further features, and improve the quality of rehabilitation that can be accessible from peoples’ own homes.”- said Dr. Eve Gregoriou.

Regarding their future plans, Eve envisions the expansion of their product in the near term to address more than just stroke survivors:

“We would be addressing more areas of the body and cognition for several conditions such as cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, parkinsons, and eventually getting into the musculoskeletal domain as well. We want to provide access to our technology to anybody who requires it, regardless of location. Headsets are now getting much smaller and lighter, so I see a future where we’ll be wearing light-weight glasses to achieve a seamless blend between the virtual and real world”- explained Dr. Eve Gregoriou.

Challenges and motivations

Eve explained that founding a company is a challenging journey with many ups and downs:

“It’s about getting the right support, the right people on board, both internally in the company, but also externally from other organizations. It requires to network a lot and find people who are passionate, resilient and share the same vision of improving patients’ lives through technological solutions”- claimed Dr. Eve Gregoriou.

Eve gave special attention to forming the right team, but also commented on other aspects that are challenging for founders:

“Growing at the right rate, having the right amount of funding in, and making the right choices. It’s a lot of decisions made in parallel and it’s about keeping the right focus on the items that are necessary for the growth of your company and the value of it.”- Eve said.

Apart from these challenges related to funding and people, Dr. Eve Gregoriou also mentioned challenges related to developing gaming technologies for healthcare users:

“There is no existing manual on how to implement gamification in healthcare, you need to co-design with patients and clinicians who are your end users and take all of the information and feedback provided to design the technology to meet their needs. Additionally, you need developers internally that are creative, solutions oriented to design software that is engaging whilst there are various healthcare considerations and limitations.”- claimed Dr. Eve Gregoriou.

How their path crossed with Strata

Strata and NeuroVirt have worked together in writing a grant application to get European funding: 

“We actually went through to the final stages of the application, which is really great as it was our first time applying. We continue to work with them, and they’re supporting us on earning funding for European projects”- explained Dr. Eve Gregoriou.

Eve is happy to work with Strata as both have the same vision, having found in the team a good collaboration to achieve their objectives:

“For me, what is equally important to the vision of the startup is to help other people and inspire them. Regardless of gender, age and race, we want to inspire others to take the courage and the lead to form startups and create a positive impact in our world and for the future”-concluded Dr. Eve Gregoriou.