Neurotech Startups Participate at International Neuromodulation Society Meeting

by James Cavuoto, editor

More than 1000 clinicians, neural engineers, and related professionals attended the 2011 meeting of the International Neuromodulation Society, held in London, England last month. The conference began with a full-day session called Future Innovations in Neuromodulation: Bringing New Ideas to Market. The session, oriented toward marketing and investment topics in the neuromodulation, may become a permanent feature in upcoming INS meetings.

Geoff Thrope, CEO of NDI Medical, led the day off with a description of how hes transformed NDI from a technology startup to a neurotechnology incubator and investment firm. NDI has recently spun off SPR therapeutics, which will market a novel percutaneous stimulation device for the treatment of shoulder pain. The stimulator, which takes the form of a smart patch, is intended to deliver short-term pain therapy in 30-minute sesions that end after 21 days.

Marcelo Lima, CEO of ImThera Medical, gave attendees an update on the the company’s hypoglossal nerve stimulation system for treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. ImThera has raised $10.7 million in funding in A and B rounds and a $14M C round is in the works. The company has applied for CE Mark in Europe and plans to begin clinical testing in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of this year in five sites. Lima said that he anticipates that while ENT surgeons will be implanting the device, pulmonologists will managing patients and therapy.

Ehud Cohen, CEO of CerebralRx, a spinoff of BioControl Medical, described his company’s vagus nerve stimulation system for treatment of epilepsy. Cohen said that in comparison to Cyberonics’ VNS therapy, CerebralRx’ FitNeS systemwill use unidirectional stimulation, which will achieve higher efficiency with fewer side effects, such as voice alteration. The company has implanted its device in two patients in Sweden.

Michael Russell, CEO of Aaken Laboratories, described a new business opportunity in the neurodiagnostics space making use of current density modeling technology that his firm has developed. Aaken Labs conducts finite element analysis of MRI images to develop a conductivity map of the brain that depicts likely current pathways. Usings these images, a clinician such as a neurologist, neurosurgeon, or psychiatrist could determine the optimal electrode placement for a n individual patient. Russell noted that there are already CPT codes in plance for MRI interpretation, making reimbursement for this service more straightforward.

Scott Dress, CEO of QiG Group, a division of Greatbatch Medical, explained Greatbatch’s motives in establishing an incubator for neuromodulation and cardiac rhythm management startups, noting that 95 percent of IPGs in use contain some components from Greatbatch. Once such startup is Algostim, which is developing a spinal cord stimulation system for treatment of pain.

CEOs of three other pain neuromodulation startups gave overviews of their companies, including Jon Snyder from Neuros Medical, Konstantin Alataris from Nevro Corp., and David Wood from Spinal Modulation Inc. Alataris reported that Nevro has raised $50 million in investment and has treated 25 patients in the last 12 months with its parasthesia-free therapy. The company recently appointed Michael DeMane as its new president. Nevro is working with investigators at Stnaford and UC Davis.

Snyder reported that stump pain and residual limb pain has created a target market of 900,000 individuals in the U.S. Neuros uses a cuff electrode and stimulation of 5 to 30 kHz to achieve nerve block. He mentioned the company is looking at future markets such as trigeminal neuralgia and post-mastectomy pain.

Wood described Spinal Modulation’s dorsal root ganglion therapy for treating chronic pain.

Richard McCallum and Jiande CHen, two Texas investigators affiliated with a startup called GI Stimulation, discussed multipoint gastric stimulation for the treatment of gastroparesis. Diabetics represent one of the largest segments of this market.

Other CEOs presenting during the event were Ben Pless of Autonomic Technologies and Dan O’Connell of Functional Neuromodulation Inc., whose firms are attacking the market for headache pain alzheimer’s disease, respectively.

In addition to the entrepreneurs from neuromodulation startup firms, executives from two establised neuromodulation firms, Medtronic and t. Jude Medical, offered their advice on working with them. Lothar Krinke, vice preseident of research and business development at Medtronic, advised potential partners to be patient and try to do something Medtronic isn’t already doing. He mentioned neurophysiological monitoring and brain-device interfaces as arease the company is interested in. He said that 70 percent of the the value Medtronic brings to a relationship is from its expertise, while the remaining 30 percent is financial. And he advised entrepreneurs to start with the end game in mind. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he asked.

An afternoon panel of venture capital investors featured four European VC firms and three U.S. firms.



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