CARY – A medtech startup already backed by NBA legend Charles Barkley is attracting new streams of investment.

NeuroVice, a Cary-based startup that’s developed a tongue protector for seizure suffers, has landed an additional $300,000 from a group of local angel investors. That’s on top of an undisclosed amount raised from the famous basketball player last year.

“I raised this capital to complete the final phase of development,” NeuroVice’s founder and CEO Ashlyn Sanders, 28, told WRAL TechWire.

PATI is a single-use, disposable medical device that prevents oral injuries during seizures.

It is currently in the final stages of product development at the Morrisville-based medical device design and manufacturing company Gilero. The startup is also preparing to apply for FDA clearance in the coming months.

NeuroVice CEO and founder Ashlyn Sanders with NBA legend and angel investor Charles Barkley

Barkley became one of the startup’s first investors after Sanders wrote him with a pitch following his guest appearance on ABC’s Season 10 of “Shark Tank” a few years back.

To her surprise, he wrote back.

“I had a lot of interest from investors following [Barkley’s] investment, and because we were able to develop a safe and effective product, I was able to raise this round,” Sanders said.

William (Tré) Clayton is one of those investors. Originally from Clayton, N.C., he is based out of New York City and is a venture fellow with Collab Capital, an investment firm targeting Black founders. However, his investment in NeuroVice is a personal one, not through Collab’s fund.

“I was truly stunned to find out that no such item was available for medical use, despite the comparatively large portion of society that lives with recurring seizures,” he said. “She truly found a gap in the market and set her sights on addressing it.”

A personal mission

It’s estimated that 3.4 million people suffer from epilepsy, or seizure disorder, in the United States. Symptoms include uncontrollable twitching, which can often cause oral injuries.

Sanders has experienced this firsthand.

In 2014, shortly after starting graduate school for bioethics and science policy at Duke University, she was diagnosed with a Chiari malformation, a condition in which brain tissue extends into your spinal canal.

She required emergency brain surgery. However, to this day, she still lives with the residual neurological effects, which include seizures.

“My perspective was from as a patient living day-to-day with the symptoms,” Sanders said. “I started to think about a device that could be used to safely and effectively prevent that from happening during the seizure.”

NeuroVice CEO and founders Ashlyn Sanders

Enter PATI, what she calls “a disruptive, first-to-market” solution to address this unmet need, especially for those with medication-resistant epilepsy, which is estimated at around 40 percent of all epilepsy patients.

How it works is simple: Before sleep or the onset of an “aura,” often described as the beginning of a seizure, the patient inserts the protective device into the mouth, preventing injury to the tongue during an episode.

After the seizure, the patient removes the device, discards it and restocks with a new PATI.

Additionally, it can be used as an emergency medical intervention for paramedics, and in hospitals and clinics as part of “seizure precautions order” and before EEGs [electroencephalogram tests].

Sanders said she has also expanded indications for use with other neurological conditions, such as stroke, traumatic brain injuries and brain tumors.

“Our goal is to exit by the end of this year with commercialization by the acquiring company in 2022.”