2020 in Review

As Neurotech Reports begins our third decade of coverage of the neurotechnology industry, we’d like to look back on 2020 to see what lessons we can apply to the post-pandemic era that awaits us on the other side. Though the year started with many positive research and commercial developments, it’s hard to downplay the impact that COVID-19 has had on our industry. In large part because many states and hospitals put a hold on elective surgeries, sales of implanted neuromodulation devices such as SCS systems took a big hit.

Still, as we reported in our April 2020 issue and also in this issue, the coronavirus pandemic offered some unforeseen opportunities for the neurotech industry, including vendors of phrenic nerve stimulations systems and noninvasive VNS systems. And as we cover in our report from the 2020 Neurotech Leaders Forum [see Conference Report, p6], the pandemic did not stop VC investment and strategic dealmaking. Among the most significant financial events of the year were the acquisition of iota Biosciences by Astellas Pharma for $304 million, the Axonics Modulation IPO, which fetched $130 million, and the merger of Magstim and Philips’ former EGI unit.

The year saw a number of significant VC investment rounds, including a $67 million round for Neuropace, a €26 million round for migraine neuromodulation vendor Salvia BioElectronics, a $30 million round for pain neuromodulation startup Presidio Medical, a €15 million round for the Italian electrode vendor Wise, a $15.8 million round for bioelectronic medicine vendor Cardionomic, and a $16.5 million round for Konstantinos Alataris’ new venture Nēsos [see article p5]. Smaller but closer to home, brain data startup Rune Labs raised $5 million and consumer neurotech vendor Humm raised $2.6 million.

On the technology front, 2020 saw innovative stimulation modalities emerge such as iontronic implants from Panaxium [NBR May20 p1], magnetoelectric stimulation from Rice University [NBR Feb20 p1], mechanical stimulation from MIT [NBR Sep20 p1], and various forms of optogenetic, ultrasonic, and microfluidic stimulation. But perhaps the most profound development that will impact the neuromodulation market in the near term is the glial cell stimulation technology that Medtronic acquired from Stimgenics [NBR Jan20 p1]. Medtronic’s differential targeted multiplexed platform for spinal cord stimulation may well portend a significant paradigm shift in the SCS market, much as paresthesia-free stimulation, DRG stimulation, and closed-loop stimulation were in prior years.

While not all the developments that took place in 2020 were positive, the fact that the industry appears to have survived one of the greatest economic challenges we have seen in a century should make us all optimistic about what lies ahead.

James Cavuoto
Editor and Publisher


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