Neuroelectrics Bags $17.5 Million for At-Home, Personalized Brain Stimulation Platform
Neuroelectrics plans to use the funds to develop its non-invasive transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) therapeutic platform into clinical trials. Specifically, it plans to move into the clinic for its technology for treating refractory focal epilepsy and its at-home treatment for refractory depression.
Recently, the company ran a pilot study of 20 people that demonstrated its neurostimulating electrical headcap, Starstim, significantly decreased seizures in patients who had treatment-resistant epilepsy. And it was non-invasive. The patients received 10 sessions of electrical brain stimulation, each one lasting 20 minutes. They received the treatments over two weeks. The data showed a reduction in the average seizure frequency by 44%. Four of the patients had seizure frequency drop by 75%.
One of the key points is that the patients did not respond to drugs. Prior to Neueroelectrics’ technology, the only other alternative would be surgery. If the Phase III trial is successful, they will submit to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the Starstim headcap.
“We and our patients look forward to a non-invasive and non-pharmacologic option for those whose seizures have not been controlled by drugs or surgery,” said Alexander Rotenberg, professor of Neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, leader of the pilot study.
The epilepsy study is the furthest along, but the funding will also be used to fund a pilot study in major depressive disorders. About 17.3 million adults in the U.S. have at least one major depressive episode every year, and they often do not respond well to drugs.
A potential therapy is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). This is hospital-based, and uses an electromagnetic wand that applies magnetic fields to targeted parts of the brain. But due to the pandemic, patients couldn’t go to hospitals for the treatment.
“Patients with major depressive disorders couldn’t go to the hospitals to receive TMS at the time of the pandemic,” said Ana Maiques, founder and chief executive officer of Neuroelectrics. “Psychiatrists at Harvard reached out to us and said, ‘Why don’t you ask the FDA whether we can send them [Starstim] devices at home?’ So we did, and the FDA agreed, and greenlighted this study of 50 patients.”
This study is being conducted in the patients’ homes while being remotely monitored by physicians.
“I think that COVID really accelerated this,” Maiques said. “The fact that we can deploy brain therapy at home — which is not diagnostic but is really providing treatment — I think it’s really a fundamental change.”
To date, the company depended upon public research grants. The Series A is the first time it has raised private capital in the decade it’s been in operation. Previously, they sold the Starstim headcap to researchers to raise funds. In 2019, this brought in $5 million, which was only slightly hit by the pandemic.
“Selling to researchers was a pretty good bootstrapping strategy: instead of raising capital, just go and deploy your minimum vialbe product,” Maiques said. “But it turned out to be a really good idea, because the researchers are also collecting pilot data on clinical indications. So as we see this data evolving, we can pick up some of these pathologies that have advanced on the science and decide to partner with them and invest in clinical trials. This is the way we came to epilepsy and depression.”
Data from the various researchers support the possibility the technology can be used to treat autism, Alzheimer’s and ADHD.