Neurotech Leaders Forum Participants Discuss New Market Opportunities

by David Pope, editorial director

About 90 representatives of various segments of the neurotechnology industry attended the 2007 Neurotech Leaders Forum, held in Newport Beach, CA last month. The two-day event featured three short courses and a consumer/end-user panel on the first day and several industry panel discussions on the second day.

Keynote speaker Ali Rezai from the Cleveland Clinic gave attendees a comprehensive update on new neuromodulation therapies, including several new applications for deep-brain stimulation. “Neuromodulation is the new frontier of medicine, a solution for those who are suffering,” he said. “Neuromodulation will help millions of patients worldwide in the future, but it needs to be evidence-based,” he said. Rezai showed video clips from his pioneering DBS surgery this summer that helped restore function to an individual with traumatic brain injury who had been in a minimally conscious state [NBR Aug07 p1].

In a panel discussion devoted to psychiatric disorders, Rohan Hoare from ANS/St. Jude described the potential offered by DBS in the treatment of psychiatric disorders and Len Brandt from CNS Response explained how brain measurement technology could benefit manufacturers of neuromodulation devices and pharmacological interventions for depression and other disorders.

The reimbursement panel elicited strong reactions from attendees frustrated with barriers raised by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for neurotech therapies such as functional electrical stimulation. The entrepreneur panel featured presentations by executives from Columbia Scientific, Electrical Geodesics, and Synapse Biomedical.

In a wrap-up panel on investment, Nola Masterson from Science Futures, Tony Natale from Prism VentureWorks, and Sharon Stevenson from Okapi Ventures offered their perspective on the industry and the issues raised during the event. Natale advised entrepreneurs to focus on proving their technology and advocated working on diseases that we understand currently. Masterson advised attendees to integrate information technology and personalized medicine concepts into their thinking. The panelists agreed that neurotech products that are paid for privately or don’t require CMS reimbursement would have a quicker path to market.



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