Neuron Therapeutics Inc.
This article was originally published in Start Up
Neuron Therapeutics is developing a combination drug/device system to deliver the missing oxygen and nutrients to the brain in order to minimize sustained injury and enable the brain to restore impaired function following ischemic stroke.
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In May 2000, START-UP profiled five medical device companies targeting stroke, in an article entitled "Making Progress in Stroke." We recently revisited Radiant Medical, Medivance, MicroVention, and two others to find out what went according to plan and what didn't In 2007, we have to say that there has in fact not been much progress, at least in acute ischemic stroke. Two companies dropped out, two remain active with promising programs--in clinical areas other than stroke, and one, which avoided ischemic stroke in the first place, enjoyed a nice exit.
Few effective treatments exist for acute ischemic stroke, but not for lack of effort. Pharmaceutical approaches have been extremely disappointing; more than a handful of companies have been forced to stop work on a drug already in Phase III trials. Device innovators are more optimistic; they believe that their devices might help improve patient outcomes when combined with drugs. The devices could be used to get the drug directly to the site of the clot that causes the stroke and to prepare the clot to receive and absorb the thrombolytic rapidly. Other device companies are working in the field of temperature management, aiming to achieve hypothermia. Challenges remain great, and include the lack of infrastructure for diagnosing patients in a timely fashion and treating them once they arrive in a hospital ER; the difficulty of recruiting eligible patients for clinical trials; and the complexities of the disease. But a small number of device companies are in early clinical trials, albeit moving at a glacial pace.
At In3 West, a medical device conference held in Las Vegas recently, Windhover Information convened a panel of venture investors to ask them what's in store for device companies seeking investments in the near future, and to address one nagging question: whether or not the heady funding levels of 2007 are sustainable, or even desirable. Certainly exits have become more challenging; consolidation has removed certain would-be acquirers and the IPO market has become more demanding; no company will get out there without at least $30 to $40 million in revenues, several on the panel felt. Others were feeling the pressure of having to carry portfolio companies for even longer periods of time; more complex technologies, lag times at the FDA, and the need to get companies not only to the commercial stage but to a revenue ramp were pushing up the number of years to an exit and total investment dollars. Many were optimistic that early stage deals, exits by acquisition and other unusual phenomena would continue to happen; but selectivity was the theme of the day.