2019 in Review

As the second decade of the 21st century—and the second decade of our coverage of the neurotechnology industry—comes to a close, it’s worth taking a look back over the last year and putting it in context with the last 10 years. There were many significant commercial developments in 2019, including Neuralink’s public announcement, the emergence of new competitors like Axonics Modulation and Saluda Medical, and mergers such as GTX medical/NeuroRevovery Technologies. But probably the most significant development during this past year was the range of new government funding initiatives for neurotechnology. The NIH HEAL initiative funded neurotech researchers and startups to the tune of about $1 billion. DARPA’s new BG+ program promises to jump-start several new research and commercialization efforts related to treating spinal cord injury.

While 2019 can’t boast of the mega-mergers we’ve seen in previous years, like the $25 billion Abbott/St. Jude merger in 2016, or Boston Scientific’s $1 billion+ purchase of Advanced Bionics in 2004, there were several smaller deals, including licensing and distribution agreements as well as M&A activity. And Axonics Modulation’s $138 million IPO stands out as one of the most significant we have seen.

Still, after re-reading what we wrote in this space 10 years ago [NBR Dec09 p2], we’re left with the impression that some challenges confronting our industry have taken far too long to address. True, the overall economy and the investment outlook for neurotechnology is much stronger than it was at the end of the last decade. But the problem of failed clinical trials—particularly trials that fail because of an inappropriate control arms—continues to confront neurotech startups and established firms alike. And obtaining reimbursement is still a major challenge for firms seeking to launch new products.

Many of the challenges confronting neurotech startups were subjects of discussion at the 2019 Neurotech Entrepreneurs Workshop, held at Arizona State University earlier this month [see conference report, p7]. While the workshop was designed primarily for graduate students and post-docs who might become entrepreneurs down the road, the information in the presentations and the exercises conducted by the students and their mentors would be valuable to many neurotech firms already in existence. Indeed we heard more than one neurotech CEO say they wished that this workshop had existed when they were students.

Along those lines, we’re pleased to report that Neurotech Reports will be partnering with DARPA and some of their program awardees to offer commercialization coaching sessions, which will take place after the 2020 Bioelectronic Medicine Forum, on April 7 in New York City.

We hope to see many of our readers there.

James Cavuoto
Editor and Publisher


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