Laronix is a medical device start-up that has developed a world-first bionic voice box to restore speech for people who have lost their voice as a result of laryngeal cancer.
Laryngeal cancer occurs in the throat. Over 600 Australians are diagnosed with laryngeal cancer each year. In 2018, there was almost 100,000 people living with laryngeal cancer in the United States.
Survivors of the disease usually have their larynx removed and lose their voice as a result of a surgical procedure called laryngectomy.
Conventional artificial voice boxes on the market have to be surgically implanted and produce very robotic sounds. For women survivors of the cancer, there are no female voices available.
Dr Farzaneh Ahmadi first came across the field of voice cloning while completing her PhD at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. A patient came to the group she was working with a plea to help him save his voice. He was a singer. She was frustrated that they weren’t able to help him. But that was to be the driving force behind finding a solution for people like him.
Dr Ahmadi moved to Australia in 2013, taking up a postdoctoral fellowship at Western Sydney University to further her research in this area. In 2015, she invented the idea of the first functional Bionic Voice. By 2018, she had developed a proof-of-concept. In 2019, she founded Laronix Pty Ltd, setting up shop in Brisbane.
The Bionic Voice does not require surgery. Patients wear the technology. Laryngectomy people breathe through a hole in the neck called the stoma. The Bionic Voice device sits over the patient’s stoma to monitor respiration. As the patient breathes, the breathing produces readings that drive a human vocal fold model to produce the patient’s voice. The vocal fold model is designed to learn and mimic the natural voice of the patient.
Dr Ahmadi said the Laronix Bionic Voice was a Queensland-made technology.
“In a global-first, it allows laryngectomy people across Australia and the United States to speak with a male or female voice – and to sing as well,” Dr Ahmadi said.
Laronix has partnered with two prominent university hospitals in America and Australia and has performed successful clinical trials of the solution before moving on to scaled manufacturing. The technology has regulatory approvals – TGA and FDA - in Australia and the United States of America.
Laronix received $197,500 in Ignite Ideas Funding in 2022 to commercialise its voice-cloning technology.
The technology could also have application for over 80,000 Parkinson’s disease patients in Australia. Changes in speech and vocal articulation are common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
The company currently has offices in Brisbane and New York and employs 9 people.
- Laronix was a Major Prize Winner in the category of Bionic Implants and Organs in Bionic Queensland’s 2021 Bionics Challenge. This award granted Laronix $50,000 (excluding GST).
- They were also funded $551,000 in 2021 through the Federal Government’s Accelerating Commercialisation program.
- They have recently closed a $2 million funding round with the support of some of Australia’s most successful start-up founders, including Modibodi Founder
Ms Kristy Chong.
- The biomedical industry in Queensland contributes $2.1 billion to the state economy and employs about 12,400 people.