Authors: Shivani Sheopory, Andrew Keller
On April 6th and 7th 2016, Boston hosted the Neurotech Investing and Partnering Conference 2016 – a global conference, now in it’s 11th year. The event was organized by the Neurotechnology Industry Organization and their partner NeuroInsights, and hosted a variety of large and small companies, investors, scientists and others working in the neurotechnology space. Our team witnessed the panels first-hand, got to interact with and observe some interesting companies and heard some perspectives which are helping shape this industry- read on for highlights!
State of Neurotech Industry 2016
Carla Lema Tome, the Director of Research for NeuroInsights, opened the conference with a general review of the field and a fun fact about how life expectancy has increased by 6 years since 1990. She went on to state that the burden of all Neuro related diseases and ailments was global burden in excess of $3 trillion dollars. There was 5% growth in the NeuroSoftware & NeuroFeedback industry while NeuroPharmaceuticals had zero growth and both totaled to $551 million and $142 billion. It was pretty clear that there is big money in NeuroPharma, not so much so with devices or software.
On the bright side she said Neurotech investing was up 31% in 2015!
Investing in Neurotech
- Moderator: Bruce Leuchter, Managing Director, PJT Partners
- Andrew Firlik, General Partner, JAZZ Venture Partners
- Imran Eba, Partner, Action Potential Venture Fund
- Kiran Reddy, Venture Partner, Clarus Ventures
- Arjun Goyal, Associate, 5AM Ventures
- Kevin Bitterman, Partner, Polaris Partners
The conference, safe to say, was mainly about Central Nervous System (CNS) and Pharmaceuticals. This panel really harked on the late stage clinical failures of many CNS drugs, that before they invest in a new drug or device, they really want to de-risk the investment as much as possible. All investors seemed pretty open to the idea of investing in early seed stage companies all the way to companies well in their clinical trials. Andrew Firlik has a new fund for experimental technology for devices and the new cutting edge of NeuroTech.
Internal and External R&D Panel
- Moderator: John Reppas, Director Public Policy, Neurotechnology Industry Organization
Ajay Verma, VP Experimental Medicine, Biogen
Jeff Erb, Sr. Director Business Development, Alliances and IP Portfolio Management, Medtronic
Jeffrey Nye, Vice President Neuroscience Innovation and Scientific Partnership Strategy, J&J Innovation
The big pharma and medical device companies had a very interesting back-and-forth about how they are trying different models of collaboration with universities and startups, – such as “university, individual or multi-center partnerships” as Jeff Nye said. They are also working to foster an innovative startup community and bolster it by providing large-scale industry perspective, mentorship and funding to facilitate low-risk innovation. Jeff Erb stated that Medtronic’s Neuromodulation business is a strong example of such innovation partnerships – the business “started in cardiac, but now is its own 2.5 Bn$ business.” For example, they needed technology to sense peripheral nerves from the brain, so to complement their internal R&D, bought Sapiens 2 years ago to acquire their sensing expertise. Ajay Verma quoted that [studying the] “Central Nervous System is not rocket science, it’s much harder.” He also touched on the issue of neurotechnology developing so fast, that in the near future, a patient with, for example, multiple sclerosis, will have options to choose between an exoskeleton or targeted drug delivery therapy – so how do you segment such a market? Maybe use a big data approach, with external collaborators.
Emerging Company Showcase
The following companies’ executives spoke for 5 minutes each, primarily seeking investment and partners. We found an exciting mix of big data gathering apps, new neuroimaging technology, cool neuromodulation devices and innovative drug therapeutics development.
Scott Shandler, CEO, Longevity Biotech
Richard diMonda, COO, Sensory Innovations
Hagit Alon, Chief Scientific Officer, ALS Analyzer
Stacy Chambliss, Chief of Administration, Valencia Technologies
Mehran Talebinejad, CEO and Founder, NeuroQore
Travis Stiles, CEO and President, Novoron Bioscience
Val Goodfellow, CEO, Califia Bio
Henrik Kjeldsen, CEO, TRUUST Neuroimaging
Kenneth Rice, President and COO, LikeMinds
Keynote Speaker Day #2 – Rethinking the Brain Machine Interface
Speaker: Polina Anikeeva, MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
Anikeeva, who runs the Bioelectronics Group at MIT, spoke about “Materials Science for Neural Interfaces”. Her talk focused on a minimally invasive or “wireless Deep Brain Stimulation” technology that her lab developed, using heat-sensitive magnetic contrast agents. She invoked the Matrix, material science and BCI’s into her introduction and pointed out that if we are so good at miniaturizing silicon circuits, can we re-apply that knowledge to neural circuits?
A very interesting application of their magnetic nanoparticle technology was in Alzheimer’s – After their stimulation was applied to a sample for a few hours, they were able to disintegrate a significant percentage of the amyloid proteins, which play a strong role in Alzheimer’s.
Frontiers in Neurotechnology Panel
Moderator: Manuel Lopez-Figueroa, Venture Partner, Bay City Capital
Ana Maiques, CEO, NeuroElectrics
Jenny Barnett, Director of Healthcare Innovation, Cambridge Cognition
Frank McEachern, CEO, Microtransponder
Jason Riley, CTO, Archeoptix
Colin Kealey, Advanced Development and Medical Affairs, Neurosigma
Neuromodulation and imaging dominated this panel. In neuromodulation, we saw stimulation technologies ranging from Neuroelectrics’ combined EEG-transcranial current devices (in a live demo by Ana Maiques!), to trigeminal nerve stimulation therapies by Neurosigma, to Paired Vagus Nerve Stimulation (Paired VNS™) System by Microtransponder to combat tinnitus and stroke.
Cambridge Cognition spoke of their cognitive assessment tools, and Archeoptix employs their the NIRD™ series of devices for early detection of traumatic brain injury. Bay city capital finances life sciences companies, such as the spinal cord stimulator system company, Nevro, which recently obtained FDA approval.