Neurostimulation's Billion-Dollar Markets
This article was originally published in Start Up
Beyond the functional stimulation of muscles to get them moving, electrical stimulation can also operate on blood vessels, membranes, and receptors-targets in the body once regarded as the domain of pharmaceuticals. Indeed, driving sales of $2 billion in the neurostimulation industry in 2005 and growth rates of almost 20% going forward, are large-market clinical indications that haven't been well-served by drugs: pain, epilepsy, depression, stroke, urinary incontinence, Parkinson's disease, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. For some of these disorders, chronic neurostimulation-of the deep brain, the spinal cord, the vagus and other nerves-promises site-specific, side-effect free and reversible therapies that have the potential to be efficacious where drugs can't.
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The neurostimulation market is becoming electric for many large companies looking for major growth opportunities. Worth $1.3 billion in the US in 2009, the neurostimulation market is expected to grow to $2.7 billion by the year 2014. Those robust figures take into account some fourteen different clinical product categories, some of the largest being Alzheimer's disease, chronic pain, depression, epilepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, and stroke. In fact, that's the beauty of neurostimulation for medical device companies: it offers a single platform technology that can be leveraged over multiple, large product areas. But what model most efficiently helps a company with core expertise in neurostimulation - the knowledge of impulse generators and leads and their interface with nerves, power sources, and controllers - leverage that knowledge over numerous product areas? NDI Medical has its own strategy with a for-profit incubator solely focused on neurostimulation.
The seeds planted in neurostimulation ventures over the past 10 years have produced more disappointments than results, but the fallow period is over. The Food & Drug Administration recently cleared Neuronetics to begin selling its NeuroStar TMS as a treatment for people who haven't responded to a drug regimen taken during their current episode of depression. This is good news for scores of venture-backed neurostimulation companies, although Neuronetics is somewhat unique. It is developing a non-invasive device that delivers magnetic, rather than electrical pulses.
MicroTransponder's MicroStim Pain Management System is a wireless injectable neurostimulator for treating chronic pain. Because it is smaller than implanted spinal cord stimulators, it can be placed outside of the spinal cord nerve and into the peripheral nerves of the arms, legs, and neck. The three components of the system are the Subcutaneous Arrangement of Injectable Neural Transponders unit (an extremely tiny coil injected via a 16-gauge hypodermic needle near the peripheral nerve), an elastic band on the skin containing a larger coil and small battery, and a personal digital assistant or cell phone for the patient to control the stimulation.