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Neuros Medical launches to develop new device to block amputee, chronic pain

Neuros Medical on Monday closed on $375,000 in funding from JumpStart and Case Technology Ventures. Its medical device would use high-frequency neurostimulation to solve untreated amputee pain with the hope it could be used for other types of chronic pain. Researchers are completing animal trials now, and the funding will be used to launch human trials later this year.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cleveland start-up is developing a high-frequency neurostimulation device to solve untreated amputee pain with the hope it can supplant drugs for all chronic pain.

Neuros Medical incorporated in October and on Monday closed on $375,000 in funding from JumpStart and Case Technology Ventures, according to a press release (pdf). The company uses research supported by more than $3.1 million in state and federal research grants to Case Western Reserve University, MetroHealth Medical Center and the Cleveland FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation) Center.

Researchers are completing animal trials now, and the funding will be used to get through pre-clinical testing and launch human trials early in 2010, said Jon Snyder, Neuros’ chief executive officer. The company plans to add a chief science officer and chief technology officer by early next year, and launch its device in either 2011 or 2012, Snyder said.

The device relies on high-frequency alternating currents that deaden sensory and motor nerves to block pain. It comes with an on/off switch that lets patients control its use, said Kevin Kilgore, a biomedical engineer at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland FES Center. Kilgore and colleague Dr. Niloy Bhadra completed the research that is the basis for Neuros’ Nerve Block technology.

Neuros’ first will focus on solving residual limb pain — also known as “stump pain” — which occurs at the end of an amputated limb when tumors develop on the tips of severed nerves. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of amputees have residual limb pain, and roughly one-third of that group isn’t treated effectively through current methods.

There are about 1.7 million amputees in the United States, according to the Amputee Coalition of America. That figure could more than double by 2050 due largely to diseases like diabetes, according to statistical research published last year.

It’s a poignant time to develop such a solution, as the number of amputees increase through wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Snyder said federal funding to treat amputees, spurred by the war, also could help Neuros develop its product.

Using high-frequency currents isn’t common for medical devices, so there still are unanswered questions about the Neuros device. Among companies using this approach is Minnesota’s Enteromedics, which uses high-frequency impulses to battle obesity.

Biomedical engineer Kilgore said the human trials for Neuros would determine the effects of its device when it is left on for periods of days and weeks.

In addition, Snyder wants to refine the device so it only deadens sensory nerves while leaving motor function intact. Deadening motor function at the end of an amputation isn’t an issue, but refining the device to allow motor function would let Neuros expand into the 70-million patient chronic pain market.

Using a device rather than medication to treat chronic pain could help patients avoid addiction and adverse drug interactions, Snyder said.

Neuros also could treat spasticity — muscle stiffness or paralysis – which affects 2 million Americans.

Neuros was an attractive investment partly because of Snyder, a venture partner at Michigan’s Arboretum Ventures and a CEO-in-residence at BioEnterprise in Cleveland, said Lynn-Ann Gries, chief investment officer at JumpStart.

A consistent knock on the Cleveland area has been a lack of executive talent to help commercialize impressive medical research. “When you get an entrepreneur like Jon, the company certainly rises to the top,” Gries said.

Snyder said he arrived in Cleveland with the idea of leading a neurostimulation company. Before joining BioEnterprise and Arboretum in early 2008, Snyder lead marketing for a surgical division of Columbus, Ohio-based Cardinal Health. He also worked as a vice president of marketing at Cleveland’s Imalux Corp., and in positions at Cyberonics and Steris Corp. in Mentor.

Neuros currently employs Snyder and the two researchers, Kilgore and Bhadra.