Interesting Times

by James Cavuoto, editor

Anyone reading this issue of Neurotech Business Report could easily come to the conclusion that these are interesting times in the neurotechnology industry.

At a time when many healthtech startups are worried that the fountain of investment dollars we’ve seen in the last few years may be drying up, we report on at least four early-stage neurotech firms receiving funding [see Financial News, p7]. Saluda Medical’s $150 million round stands out as noteworthy, as does Neuromod Devices’ €30 million round for treating tinnitus. Epson’s investment in Neurable is also interesting, because it signals that large consumer electronics firms may be taking note of neurotechnology’s potential. Even the relatively small investment of $1.25 million in Neuvotion is significant because it funds an application—neurorehabilitation for stroke and spinal cord injury—that was very hard pressed to attract VC funding just a few years ago.

These are also interesting times for the more mature spinal cord stimulation market. The entry of Biotronik and Saluda [see article, p3] into the pain neuromodulation space stands to transform the big four of SCS to the big six. Each of the big players in this market has its own unique technological angle, whether it’s high-frequency stimulation, in the case of Nevro, or closed-loop stimulation in the case of Saluda. Again, at a time when the SCS industry is reeling from negative articles casting doubt on the effectiveness of pain neuromodulation and battles with public and private payers over reimbursement, it’s a little surprising to see this degree of competition. We would not be surprised to learn that Saluda and Biotronik—and perhaps other new entrants—will not stop at just SCS and will be looking at other targets and indications as they navigate the crowded SCS space. Biotronik will have at least one advantage that startups entering this space might not enjoy, and that is their manufacturing capability and their ready access to components and subassemblies.

We’re also encouraged to see vibrant activity in the market for stroke rehabilitation. Readers of this issue will learn about four new firms targeting this space with novel therapeutic approaches. Given the sheer size of the stroke survivor population, and the clear unmet medical need that this population represents, it could make sense for one or more of the big six SCS firms to branch out into neurorehabilitation.

While it’s too early to say how all these markets will evolve in coming years, it’s safe to say that the injection of new neurological targets, therapeutic delivery options, and hardware/software platforms will be good news for patients, clinicians, and entrepreneurs.