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Identical twins Luke and Ellis Parry were studying engineering at Oxford in 2012 when Luke suffered a devastating brain injury after falling from a balcony. Doctors told Ellis that his brother only had hours to live.
A decade later, Luke is now in work and is training to be a Paralympic athlete. Much of this remarkable recovery is due to his own strength of character, although his recuperation has also been helped by his brother. Ellis has set up Neumind, a company developing a next-generation app to help individuals with neurological conditions live independent lives.
After winning a government Young Innovators award, Ellis has since raised £250,000 of investment, released a prototype app, and gone from one user (his brother) to more than 450. And this week, he will be further rewarded with another prize: a £50,000 Young Innovators Next Steps award to provide additional support for the UK’s most promising young entrepreneurs.
“Luke’s accident was a pivotal moment for both of us. It changed the way we looked at the world and how we dealt with it,” Ellis said. “He has since overcome monumental challenges, and watching how he coped was crucial in setting up Neumind and getting it up and running.”
Luke’s accident occurred when he slipped from a ledge on holiday and suffered catastrophic brain trauma. Part of his skull had to be removed to relieve the pressure that was building up inside it, and he spent weeks in a coma after the accident. Then he had to go through the painfully slow business of rehabilitation.
At the time, Luke’s parents were told by various doctors he would probably never walk again or be able to talk coherently. “They didn’t know my brother,” said Ellis.
Slowly, with patient help from his family, Luke began to respond to treatment. “Shockingly, 70% of people do not get adequate rehab after a neurological injury or condition in this country, while the lucky few who do get it, will find it lasts, on average, for only around 10 weeks,” said Ellis. “After that, there is effectively zero support for them. Yet recovery from brain injury is a lifelong journey.”
It was the discovery that his brother faced such limited support that drove Ellis to set up Neumind and to design its app – Alfred, named after Batman’s butler – as an aid to those afflicted with acquired brain injury (ABI).
“We built Alfred to help people with cognitive impairments take control of their lives. It delivers smart prompts to support memory and planning; provides neurological training regimes; and links the individual to their wider support network of families, friends and carers.
“This new award has allowed us to take a step back and be more ambitious. We aren’t just building an app now, we’re combining Alfred’s cognitive assistive technology with expert clinical guidance and an understanding community to share tips, strategies and support. It’s incredibly exciting.”