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 his brother had only hours to live.
A decade later, Luke is now working and training to become a Paralympic athlete. Much of this remarkable recovery is due to his own strong character, although his recovery has also been aided by his brother. Ellis founded Neumind, a company developing a next-generation app to help people with neurological disorders lead independent lives.
After winning a Young Innovators award from the government, Ellis has since raised £250,000 in investment, released a prototype app and went from one user (his brother) to over 450. And this week he will be further awarded with another award: a £50,000 Young Innovators Next Steps award to give additional support to 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 interacted with it,” Ellis said. “Since then, he has overcome monumental challenges, and seeing how he coped has been pivotal in establishing and starting Neumind.”
Luke’s accident happened when he slipped off a ledge while on vacation and suffered catastrophic brain trauma. Part of his skull had to be removed to relieve pressure building up inside, and he was in a coma for weeks after the accident. Then he had to go through the painfully slow rehabilitation.
At the time, Luke’s parents were told by several doctors that he would probably never walk or speak coherently again. “They didn’t know my brother,” Ellis said.
Slowly, with patient help from his family, Luke began to respond to the treatment. “Shockingly, 70% of people in this country don’t get adequate rehabilitation after a neurological injury or condition, while the lucky few who do get it will only last about 10 weeks on average,” Ellis said. “After that, there is basically zero support for them. Yet recovery from brain injury is a lifelong journey.”
It was the discovery that his brother received such limited support that led Ellis to set up Neumind and design his app — Alfred, named after Batman’s butler — as a resource for people with acquired brain injuries (ABI).
“We built Alfred to help people with cognitive disabilities take control of their lives. It delivers smart prompts to support memory and scheduling; provides neurological training regimens; and connects the individual with their wider support network of families, friends and carers.
“This new award has allowed us to step back and be more ambitious. We’re not 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.”