Neurotech Execs Gather in NYC for Bioelectronic Medicine Forum

Staff report

Executives and entrepreneurs from several neurotechnology assembled in New York City earlier this month for the 2024 Bioelectronic Medicine Forum. The one-day conference, held at the New York Academy of Medicine in Manhattan, featured sessions with investors, clinicians, and academics seeking to move the industry forward.

Keynote speaker Tom Oxley, CEO of BCI firm Synchron, offered a compelling vision for the future of neurotechnology, emphasizing innovation, accessibility, and the potential for BCIs to fundamentally change the treatment of neurological conditions. He emphasized the importance of learning from cardiac technology’s regulatory and technological advancements. He highlighted the potential of “sensing as therapy,” wherein the primary goal isn’t to modify brain circuits but to restore function by leveraging the brain’s sensory capabilities. “Neuroprosthetics doesn’t care whether you sense or stimulate,” he said. “It cares whether you restore a brain function.”

NBR senior consulting editor Jeremy Koff moderated an investment session that featured David Neustaedter from Deerfield Management, Greg Kubin from PsyMed Ventures, and Martin Alexander Gershon from Endeavor Venture Fund and Venture Studio. They discussed the current venture climate, particularly focusing on the downturn in investment and exits seen in recent years as per a report by Silicon Valley Bank, and how companies and investors are adapting.

Gershon highlighted a strategic shift towards earlier-stage investments, citing higher expected returns and a focus on digital health as opposed to biotech. This shift involves engaging with hyper-growth companies for potential exits rather than relying on traditional IPO routes. Neustaedter discussed Deerfield’s approach, which involves a minimum investment of around $15 million, emphasizing the necessity of substantial initial investments to support companies through their development phases. Kubin emphasized PsyMed Ventures’ interest in early-stage companies working on “frontier brain and mental health technologies,” highlighting an investment philosophy that favors groundbreaking over incremental innovation.

Across the panel, there was a consensus on the critical importance of the leadership team’s quality and execution capability. Whether dealing with first-time CEOs or seasoned entrepreneurs, the panelists valued coachability, strategic vision, and the ability to navigate the complex healthcare landscape. Despite the challenging climate, the panelists expressed optimism about the future, indicating that exceptional companies always find funding and that current conditions might present unique opportunities for investors willing to adapt their strategies and support companies through these turbulent times.

A session devoted to partnering with research institutions featured James Zanewicz from Tulane University, Mark Sedam from NYU Langone, and Kip Ludwig from the University of Wisconsin. Moderator JoJo Platt clarified that the session aimed to challenge traditional views of tech transfer by highlighting innovative approaches in the business of innovation. Each of the panelists are known for breaking the status quo and pushing boundaries in their respective fields, bringing a unique perspective to fostering innovation and collaboration between academic institutions and the industry.

The panelists stressed that successful partnerships between academia and industry hinge on a mutual understanding of each other’s constraints, goals, and operational models. Educating each other and sharing expectations can bridge gaps and facilitate smoother negotiations. They also highlighted the importance of being open and flexible, willing to renegotiate and adapt agreements based on evolving understandings and needs.

A closing session devoted to new targets and new indications featured Nandan Lad from Duke University, Corey Hunter Mount Sinai Medical Center, and Marom Bikson from CCNY. The panelists expressed some skepticism that pay-per-dose would catch on for implanted neurotech devices. Hunter said that the biopharma world uses a different sales model than neuromodulation firms and suggested that large medtechs such as Stryker would be more likely acquisition partners than drug firms.

Among the neuromodulation firms making presentations at the event were BackStop Neural, Nia Therapeutics, Neurosoft Bioelectronics, Sinaptica Therapeutics, Helius Medical, PathMaker, NeuroSigma, Five Liters, and WISE Srl. Cirtec Medical was Platinum sponsor of the conference, while MCRA was Silver Sponsor, and CorTec and Iris Biomedical were Bronze sponsors.