December 10, 2020

Innovative research helping people with Parkinson’s disease communicate better

Note to journalists: Photographs of Jessica Huber and the SpeechVive device are available via Google Drive. Journalists visiting campus should follow visitor health guidelines.

SpeechVive born at Purdue University, spotlighted during Innovation and Entrepreneurship Showcase

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University speech scientist Jessica Huber has watched people with Parkinson’s disease struggle to speak, which often led to social isolation and depression.

She spent time with these patients as she organized support groups and involved them in her research program. The experience inspired Huber to invent a simple wearable device to help improve the world of these individuals, and it led to the development of her own company, SpeechVive.

“Some of these patients lose themselves within the disease, and I like seeing them come back to themselves,” said Huber, a professor of speech, language and hearing sciences. “There is one guy who is really funny - just hysterical - but the disease affects the way he can express that humor vocally and facially because of the way the disease affects his muscles. But it comes back with the device. And I love seeing how other people see he is funny. It’s really rewarding to see that.”

This week, SpeechVive is being showcased at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Association of American Universities’ third-annual University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Showcase, taking place virtually through Friday (Dec. 11). The showcase is spotlighting 22 startup companies from across the nation that have created products and services using federally funded, university-based research.

SpeechVive is a Purdue-affiliated startup through Purdue Foundry. SpeechVive’s mission is to improve the quality of communication and quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease by empowering care partners and clinicians with technologies and support to restore the ability to communicate. Huber’s research has received ongoing funding from the National Institutes of Health.

This innovator’s story also is featured in the This is Purdue podcast.

huber-portrait Jessica Huber, a Purdue University professor of speech, language and hearing sciences, is being recognized for her invention of a simple wearable device to help improve the world of individuals living with Parkinson’s disease. Her innovation also led to the development of her own company, SpeechVive. (Photo by Beth Wilson)

Huber, associate dean for research in Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences, leads Purdue’s Motor Speech Lab. She also is a fellow for the National Academy of Inventors. At Purdue, she is the co-founder and associate director for the Center for Research on Brain, Behavior and NeuroRehabilitation, and a member of Purdue Institute for Integrative Neuroscience, and Center on Aging and the Life Course.

Most recently, Huber is working on virtual studies to evaluate speech disorders related to Parkinson’s disease using artificial intelligence technology platforms. And during the COVID-19 global health crisis, SpeechVive has made its remote calibration software and training available free. The software and training are available to all speech-language pathologists and their patients. Recently, her SpeechVive device received a Medicare billing code, expanding access to the device.

About SpeechVive

SpeechVive is a behind-the-ear smart device which helps people with Parkinson’s disease speak more loudly and communicate more effectively. The SpeechVive device is based on the research of inventor and co-founder Jessica Huber at Purdue University. Clinical data over four years demonstrated SpeechVive to be effective in improving volume, articulation and speech rate in 90% of the people participating in four multisite clinical trials. It is estimated that 1.5 million people in the U.S. and 10 million people worldwide suffer from Parkinson’s disease. To learn more about SpeechVive, visit www.speechvive.com.

About University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Showcase

The virtual event is designed to highlight the important role of federal funding for university-based research in driving high-value entrepreneurship and the American innovation economy. The event – in previous years held in person, but this year being held online – targets members of Congress, their staffs, and national leaders in economic development and innovation policy.

In addition, the virtual showcase coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Bayh-Dole Act on Saturday (Dec. 12). The Bayh-Dole Act significantly increased and accelerated the transfer of federally funded university discoveries to the marketplace. University-based research leads to the formation of thousands of startup companies and commercial products every year.

Startups featured in the showcase were chosen by a selection committee composed of innovation experts who considered the level of student engagement in the startup, the strength of the startup technology, and its connection to research. The committee also factored whether the affiliated university had earned APLU’s Innovation & Economic Prosperity University designation, a national recognition for higher education institutions that demonstrate a substantial and sustainable commitment to promoting economic development.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://purdue.edu/.

Writer, Media contact: Amy Patterson Neubert, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Jessica Huber, jhuber@purdue.edu 

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