Medical Devices

Neurotech startup SPR Therapeutics readies for launch of pain relief device

Assuming all goes well in a federal regulatory review, neurotechnology startup SPR Therapeutics expects to begin commercializing its first product, a pain relief device, by the end of the year.

Year-old SPR (it stands for “stimulation for pain relief”) is one of the newest members of the Cleveland area’s growing cluster of neurotechnology firms. The Cleveland area — along with cities like Raleigh, North Carolina; Chicago; and Shanghai, China — was identified in 2009 as a “region to watch” among growing neurotechnology cluster areas by trade group the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO).

SPR comes with a stronger pedigree than most startups. It’s a spinoff of NDI Medical, a neurotech incubator that in 2008 sold a urinary incontinence device called MedStim to Medtronic for $42 million. SPR’s CEO, Maria Bennett, is a former Boston Scientific employee who was closely involved in developing the MedStim product after joining NDI a few years ago.

SPR’s first product, the minimally invasive Smartpatch, is aimed at reducing shoulder pain in patients who’ve suffered strokes. The technology works via an external generator that electrically stimulates a peripheral nerve to exercise a muscle, treating a patient’s pain.


SPR’s research has confirmed that the device could serve “a very large market” because the size of the market in treating severe pain is so huge — $150 billion, according to Bennett. Clinical trials have shown that the device works, and SPR has submitted a 510(k) application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that, if approved, would clear the company to begin selling the device.

The four-employee company has thus far raised about $1.9 million in nondilutive funding, including grants from the National Institutes of Health and Lorain County Community College’s GLIDE business development program. SPR’s next fundraising step will be to secure a series A round of about $2 million, and later follow that with a B round of about $4 million, Bennett said.

The recently established NDI Healthcare Fund will not surprisingly participate in SPR’s series A round, though Bennett declined to specify how much the fund would contribute.

SPR would use the funding to beef up its sales and marketing staff, with the first key hires likely being directors in each of those areas. Bennett’s already begun interviewing. She expects SPR to grow to about triple its current size, in terms of personnel, in a year.

Additionally, SPR will pursue regulatory clearance for more clinical indications, such as general shoulder pain and lower back pain. A fully implantable version of the device, which will require following the FDA’s more onerous and lengthy Premarket Approval Application process, is planned for commercialization in about five years.

But priority No. 1 for SPR is clearly getting its first product on the market and into clinicians’ hands.

“There’s a big opportunity here to really build an organization to commercialize this device, and that’s our intent,” Bennett said.

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