Gondola® AMPS: a pioneering therapy for movement symptoms of neurological disorders
Francesco Cecchini is the co-founder and CEO of Gondola Medical Technologies and a long term client of Catalyze. Catalyze provided a review for the company’s application for the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program (EIC Accelerator Grant) and provides ongoing project management support to the project. The application resulted in the award of a €2.5 million research grant for Gondola Medical Technologies. Read our interview with Mr. Cecchini below.
The Gondola® Home Device. Image from Gondola Medical Technologies.
Gondola Medical Technologies: Automated Mechanical Peripheral Stimulation (AMPS) therapy
Gondola Medical Technologies have invented a pioneering, non-invasive and non-pharmacological approach to help improve movement symptoms caused by neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke. While neurological conditions have no cure, Gondola’s Automated Mechanical Peripheral Stimulation (AMPS), significantly improves the quality of life of patients by reducing symptoms with regular use. Gondola® AMPS therapy works by applying peripheral neurostimulation to specific areas of the feet by means of controlled mechanical impulses, which can improve motor coordination. The non-invasive therapy can be applied at home with immediate effect and without assistance through the personalized Gondola® Home Device (pictured above), or in a medical center with the multi-patient Gondola® Professional Device.
The impact of Gondola® AMPS therapy on the lives of patients has been testified to include increased self-confidence and self-esteem, as a direct result of improved walking and balancing ability for up to 4 days after a therapy session. With regular use, patients can benefit from sustained renewal of their mobility. Patients in Switzerland, Italy, France, Germany, England, Spain and Belgium have now benefited from using the AMPS therapy for as long as 9 years with continued positive impact on their neurological disorder. In comparison to other treatments for Parkinson’s disease, such as pharmaceuticals, deep brain stimulation, pallidotomy and lifestyle changes, Gondola® AMPS is the only therapy for specifically targeting lower limb dysfunctions, with a promising balance of benefits, risks, costs and contra-indications.
Founded with a clear mission
Gondola Medical Technologies was founded in 2011, by Francesco Cecchini and Stefano Tassin, the inventor of Gondola® AMPS therapy. The effectiveness of Gondola AMPS therapy was immediately visible. Francesco recalls the first time he saw videos of patients with Parkinson’s disease before and after undergoing the treatment.
“Stefano told me, ‘This is what happens after I apply the therapy’. The difference was quite amazing. In the first video you would see a person very much impaired and struggling to walk. And then in the second video, they would be walking like a healthy person.”
Together, Francesco and Stefano set up an initial proof of concept clinical study. The outcomes were very positive and led directly to the incorporation of the company in June 2011. From then on, they developed the Gondola® Medical Device and took it to market within a year. Up to the present day, Gondola Medical Technologies has continued their research and analysis into the efficacy of their device with clinical studies and 12 peer reviewed publications.
The Gondola Medical Technologies team. Francesco Cecchini – top left, Stefano Tassin – bottom left. Image from Gondola Medical Technologies.
Towards an EIC Accelerator Pilot win
In 2019, Francesco received a recommendation to work together with Catalyze and connected with our Swiss team. The following application of Gondola Medical Technologies for the EIC Accelerator grant was successful and the company was awarded €2.5 million. This award provided the momentum to expand the Gondola team, and conduct a new clinical trial in Cologne, Germany to investigate the efficacy of the Gondola® Medical Device for Parkinson’s patients with deep brain stimulation (DBS) and using standard anti-parkinsonian drugs.
Francesco explains, “We are analyzing the impact of our therapy on freezing of gait (FOG) in patients who have Parkinson’s disease and are treated with DBS and dopamine. FOG is an episodic symptom, meaning that, suddenly, the patient can no longer move forward, despite wanting to do so. For the person, this can feel as if their feet are stuck to the floor.”
With this study Gondola intends to demonstrate that Gondola® AMPS therapy can be seen as a complementarity therapy for Parkinson’s patients with DBS and dopamine treatment. Furthermore, the EIC award has enabled Gondola Medical Technologies to expand the existing team and build the peoplepower necessary to take the next steps:
“In a broader sense, beyond this clinical study the EIC project aims to create a team with diverse competences to manage our projects, run clinical studies, build strategy, develop and manufacture the device, and broaden our marketing and communications activities to build brand awareness.
Francesco Cecchini elaborates further:
“In the next stage, Catalyze will support us in looking for equity investment and funding from the EIC Accelerator.”
A wider ambition to help more patients with neurological disorders
In addition to their clinical focus on different patient settings of Parkinson’s disease, Gondola aims to establish the general mechanism of action of their AMPS device in the brain. With the mechanism known, Gondola will be able to more freely offer their life-changing treatment to more patients, in more settings of neurological disease.
Gondola Medical Technologies aim to further develop the data on the “mechanism of action” that is activated when using the Gondola® Medical Device. To achieve this, the company is conducting a pilot study in collaboration with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, USA.
Highlighting the study’s importance, Mr. Cecchini says, “Working on the mechanism of action will allow us to reduce the need for clinical studies for neurological conditions, because if we would conduct a study for Parkinson’s disease, stroke, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury it would simply cost too much time. Our goal is to be able to approach a physician saying, ‘Look, this is what happens when a patient uses our therapy. If your patient has these symptoms, why not try the Gondola AMPS therapy .’”
To win the EIC Accelerator requires a careful presentation of the project
Aside from having a ground-breaking innovation, developing an EIC Accelerator worthy project demands a careful presentation and positioning of the proposal. Gondola came to Catalyze to collaborate on the submission of their third and successful application to the EIC Accelerator.
“After applying unsuccessfully to the EIC Accelerator twice before, but scoring highly each time, we became a little frustrated. Therefore, we decided to approach the third application a little differently. We hired an employee to write the project and then we signed a contract with Catalyze to shape it in the right way.” Francesco says, “One of the complexities we have is to correctly and soundly describe what we do. Having Catalyze with us was essential in making sure we would be able to express that information in the right format to the judges.”
After delivering their pitches, Francesco describes his team feeling very positive with the judges’ reactions. The notification of their success came right before Christmas 2019:
“When we got the green light, we were super happy, it has been the best Christmas present we could receive! Being notified that we would receive €2.5 million to grow the company was a huge advancement for us, after years of hard work and dedication. And it really came at the right moment, as despite the COVID pandemic in the following year we were able to hire 12 new employees and further grow the company.”
Project management with Catalyze
With Gondola’s EIC project well underway, Catalyze continues their partnership through project management. Mr. Cecchini describes the value in receiving this support:
“We also asked Catalyze to accompany us for the project management, which is currently ongoing. The collaboration is going very well and I think that it has been a great investment, so we can concentrate on the core activities and receive Catalyze’s support to do things right with the project’s bureaucratic and reporting aspects.
“I think that often companies in our stage of development do not understand the complexity of managing EU projects well enough. In our case, not only has Catalyze been able to help us manage the formal aspects of the project, but we have also received an education on how to do things right in this framework.”
Catalyze is thrilled to partner with Gondola Medical Technologies, a highly innovative company making an immensely positive impact for patients with neurological disorders.
Learn more about Gondola Medical Technologies: visit their website