Portugal Ventures backs inSignals Neurotech with €100,000 investment


Portfolio company inSignals Neurotech (“inSignals” or “the Company”) has received a €100,000 investment from leading Portuguese venture capital firm Portugal Ventures through its initiative Call INNOV-ID.

The funding will be used by inSignals to accelerate the validation and development of its patented technology to aid deep brain stimulation surgery (“DBS”) on patients suffering Parkinson’s disease. It will also support validation of other applications in neurology.

In particular, it will allow the Company to expand preliminary clinical trials, strengthen its intellectual property position and grow its team. The Company was selected as a ‘one to watch’ in the Nature Spinoff Prize 2020 and has already received interest from potential industry partners.  It is entering collaboration agreements to extend multi-centre clinical studies in Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.

Frontier IP holds a 33 per cent equity stake in inSignals. The Company, a spin out from the Portuguese Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (“INESC TEC”) with the support of São João University Hospital, part of the University of Porto, is developing wireless wearable devices to precisely measure wrist rigidity to help surgeons place brain implants more accurately to achieve the best clinical results.

Call INNOV-ID is focused on investing in science and technology projects or companies in pre-seed, seed or early stage where the technology is still at a prototype, proof of concept or product market fit validation stage. It was launched in response to a request from the Portuguese government to support technology companies through the COVID-19 pandemic. It is managed by Portugal Ventures, a specialist in seed and early-stage investment in companies operating in digital, engineering and manufacturing, life sciences and tourism, in partnership with ANI, the Portuguese National Innovation Agency, financing specialist PME Investimentos and StartUp Portugal.

InSignals’ first product is aimed at Parkinson’s disease, and has already undergone three clinical studies involving 59 patients. Increased muscle rigidity is one of the key symptoms of the disease and is often treated by implanting deep brain stimulation electrodes when drugs no longer have an effect. InSignals’ devices have shown they could help neurologists and neurosurgeons assess rigidity more objectively and place implants more accurately.

Doctors evaluate wrist rigidity during surgery to decide the optimum position for an implant. In some hospitals, two trained surgeons are required to make a judgement by manually manipulating the patient’s wrist. This means evaluation can be biased by the physicians’ experience and perception. It can also pose difficulties for younger specialists being trained in the procedure.

Other systems designed to provide objective and quantitative evaluation are complicated to set up and are impractical for use during surgical procedures. InSignals’ device is easy to set up and use and is currently the only one providing real-time measurements.

Potential applications include helping pharmaceutical companies monitor or assess the impact of new or approved drugs in rigidity reduction during clinical trials.

InSignals was established to commercialise the work of João Paulo Cunha, Associate Professor with Habilitation at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto and senior researcher at the INESC TEC Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering. There, he created the Biomedical Research And INnovation (BRAIN) research group and co-founded the Centre for Biomedical Engineering Research.

There is a gap in the objective analysis of neurological motor symptoms. The progress undergone by the inSignals’ team assessing rigidity during DBS is attracting much interest in the field.  This funding from Portugal Ventures will expand the clinical studies taking place with some of the most experienced neurologists in Europe. It is also a starting point to leverage international funds to bring to market solutions that will support doctors in assessing neurological diseases in innovative ways.

InSignals Neurotech co-Founder João Paulo Cunha, PhD

We are delighted inSignals has been able to attract this investment from one of the major venture capitalists in Portugal. It provides a strong endorsement of the company and the potential of its technology, which is already attracting interest from leading neurologists across Europe.

Frontier IP Chief Executive Officer Neil Crabb