Kip Ludwig to Keynote 2011 Neurotech Leaders Forum in San Francisco

Kip Ludwig, who was recently appointed as program director in repair and plasticity at the NIH National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, will deliver the keynote address at the 11th annual Neurotech Leaders Forum, which will take place in San Francisco on October 17-18, 2011. Ludwig will offer attendees his views on his new role with the NIH and how it impacts the neurotechnology industry.

Ludwig received his Ph.D. in Bioengineering at the University of Michigan, followed by post-doctoral work at the same institution. More recently, Ludwig worked in industry at CVRx as a research scientist, where he and his team conceived, developed and demonstrated the chronic efficacy of a next-generation neural stimulation electrode for reducing blood pressure in both pre-clinical and clinical trials.

The 2011 event will also feature an in-depth session on reimbursement issues affecting neurotechnology manufacturers in light of new health care reform legislation.

Venture capital professionals Heath Lukatch of Novo Ventures, Paul Grand of RCT BioVentures, Mikhail Shapiro, formerly of Third Rock Ventures, and Jonas Hansson of HealthCap in Sweden will participate. Other speakers include Don Deyo, vice president of R&D at Medtronic Neuromodulation, medical device reimbursement expert Tom Hughes, and Victor Pikov of Huntington Medical Research Institutes.

The 2011 event will feature a first-ever Consumer Neurotech Conference on October 18, the second day of the event. The full-day meeting will include sessions on neuromarketing, gaming, training, and cognitive enhancement applications of neurotechnology. Companies represented on the agenda include EmSense Corp., NeuroSky, Inc., and Technology Partners. Victor Pikov will also speak on neural interface lifestyle issues.

For more information on the 2011 Neurotech Leaders Forum, including sponsorship opportunities, call 415 546 1259.

Spinal cord stimulation business: observations from London’s INS meeting

The 2011 meeting of the International Neuromodulation Society, which took place in London, England in May 2011, featured a large number of oral and poster presentations offering updated technical and clinical information on neuromodulation topics. There was also a full day of sessions devoted to commercialization, investment, and industry issues affecting neuromodulation startup firms.

But as is the case with many meetings that draw attendance from different fields of endeavor, there was as much to learn from the informal scuttlebutt going on between sessions as there was from the posters and oral presentations themselves. We offer here some of our observations based on random comments from attendees.

After the Sunday session on future innovations in neuromodulation, some attendees were perplexed by Greatbatch Inc.’s efforts to launch a new spinal cord stimulation device company, called Algostim LLC. Given that Greatbatch supplies components such as batteries and leads to many manufacturers of implanted neurostimulation systems, it raised the question as to why Greatbatch would want to compete with its customers. Greatbatch CEO Tom Hook made the case that by incubating new device startups that will eventually be spun off, Greatbatch will cultivate a greater customer base in the future. It will be interesting to see how that situation plays out.

That controversy might have presented an opportunity for component supplier Cirtec Medical to drum up business, had they have more of a presence at the event. But that company has been hit by the departure of some key staff members, including its former president Barry Smith.

There was also some discussion on the competitive positioning of new entrants in the spinal cord stimulation business such as Nevro, Spinal Modulation, and Neuros Medical. Several attendees thought that Neuros has a sound technology base, though probably the smallest market opportunity of the three. There was speculation that Nevro and Spinal Modulation might be ripe targets for acquisition by existing players in the SCS market. It will be interesting to see if either firm makes it to the market approval stage, let alone profitability, before being snapped up by one of the big three.

Speaking of spinal cord stimulation, perhaps the most profound observation we heard at the conference was by Robert Levy of Northwestern University, who noted that the SCS systems that existed five to 10 years ago, which serve as the basis for many long-term pain studies, represent the worst case scenario. Today’s SCS systems, with their greater specificity, targeting capabilities, and control over stimulation parameters, offer a far better outcome for patients and vendors alike.

James Cavuoto
Editor and Publisher
Neurotech Reports

Magnetic Stim Attracts a Crowd

It wasn’t that long ago that magnetic stimulation was looked at as somewhat suspect by many in the neurotechnology industry. But now the number of new entrants in the magnetic neuromodulation space is growing steadily, supplementing existing players using magnetic devices in stimulation, neurodiagnostics, and research.

Some of the credit for this upsurge in interest in magnetic stimulation can be attributed to Neuronetics, Inc., the Malvern, PA manufacturer of transcranial magnetic stimulation systems. The company’s NeuroStar system received FDA approval for major depressive disorder in 2008, and in 2011 Neuronetics announced that Category I CPT codes were available for the procedure, making reimbursement much easier.

At least one new entrant hopes to follow in Neuronetics’ footsteps. NeoStim Inc., a startup in San Mateo, CA, cites the existence of an FDA-cleared TMS therapy and the CPT codes as reasons why NeoStim is a sound investment. NeoStim’s device features an array of coils that the company says offers greater target selectivity than the NeuroStar system because of the multiple overlapping fields. The company plans to pursue other indications besides depression, including pain and addiction. Another startup, Israeli-based Neuronix Ltd., is developing a TMS system for treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

eNeuras Therapeutics (formerly Neuralieve) in Sunnyvale, CA is developing a single-pulse TMS device for home use for treatment of migraine. Its SpringTMS Total Migraine System is placed at the back of the head for less than a minute, generating a focused, single magnetic pulse that induces a mild electric current in the back of the brain.

Magnetic stimulation devices are also gaining popularity in neurosensing and presurgical planning applications. Nexstim Ltd., the Finland-based manufacturer, markets its MRI-guided TMS system NBS to neurosurgeons as an alternative to direct cortical stimulation. The company is investigating other neurodiagnostic and therapeutic applications of its system, including stroke recovery and pain.

One of the oldest TMS product lines in existence is the MagVenture’s MagPro system, first introduced in 1992 (previously marketed under Dantec, Medtronic, and Natus Medical brand names).  UK-based MagStim Ltd. has also been marketing its line of TMS stimulators for many years. In 2010, the company teamed with the Dutch ANT B.V. (Advanced Neuro Technology) to market a magnetic neuronavigation system called Visor, which features integration with MRI, fMRI, and EEG.

We suspect that there will be even more magnetic ventures forthcoming in the years ahead as the road to FDA approval for more invasive forms of neuromodulation continues to be difficult.

Originally published in Neurotech Business Reports, May 2011, p2