Tiny Technology Packs a Pain-Relieving Wallop
MicroTransponder Signals Success for UT Dallas Commercialization Initiative
June 26, 2008
MicroTransponder Inc., an early stage medical device company stemming from Neuroscience Professor Larry Cauller’s research, is quickly becoming the poster child for UT Dallas’ new initiative to turn university research and technology into commercial products.
Cauller’s breakthrough neural interface technology will provide treatment options for millions of adults suffering from chronic pain.
The young company’s phenomenal year started with a $1.38 million grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and then received funding from a NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke commercialization grant.
Since then, president and CEO Will Rosellini has led the company through a marathon stretch of business competitions, picking up recognition and additional funding along the way.
Cauller, of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, credits Rosellini with the insight to make his technology, a wireless neurostimulator, relevant to a huge population with an unmet need. “Will found the market for my technology. Thanks to his vision, I believe we’ll be able to help so many people,” said Cauller.
MicroTransponder’s funding success in 2008 includes:
- $1.38 million – Texas Emerging Technology Fund Grant.
- $100,000 – NIH National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke STTR Phase I grant.
- $55,000 – first place in 2008 Licensing Executives Society Foundation Graduate Student Business Plan Competition.
- $10,750 – fourth overall in the Rice University Business Plan Competition: Best Written Business Plan, Best Medical Device Company, fourth in Elevator Pitch.
- $10,000 – first place in the CEDIC New Venture Championship.
- $500,000 – venture capital investment.
Rosellini attributes the company’s early and growing success to a unique combination of technological and business support from UT Dallas.
Cauller now serves as MicroTransponder’s chief science officer. He and the device team, consisting of electrical engineering professors J.B. Lee, Jin Liu, and Hoi Lee, are working to fine-tune the technology, while the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Office of Technology Commercialization provide Rosellini guidance with the venture development.
As a doctoral student in applied cognition neuroscience and a previous telemedicine company founder, Rosellini had a solid background in science and business. Seven areas of graduate study have helped build his leadership acumen. He has earned a law degree as well as master’s degrees in business administration, accounting, computational biology and neuroscience. He is currently pursuing master’s degrees in nanoscale physics and in regulatory affairs.
Almost one out of every four American adults reports suffering from chronic pain, and with the aging population, that number is projected to increase.
Those who suffer from chronic pain often have difficulty with such daily activities as walking, sleeping and household chores. The suffering causes $60 billion a year in lost productivity and spent more than $14 billion in 2006 on treatment. MicroTransponder’s breakthrough technology will help treat patients who suffer from intractable, chronic pain, often associated with diabetic neuropathy and arthritis.
Current treatments for these patients include aspirin, narcotics and spinal cord stimulators, in which wires are implanted around the spinal cord. But according to a survey sponsored by the American Pain Society in 1999, 4 out of 10 people with moderate to severe chronic pain have not found adequate relief.
MicroTransponder’s product would offer a much-needed alternative to current treatment options. “Drugs don’t allow the patient to target the area of pain, and spinal cord stimulators simply can’t reach pains in hands and feet,” said Rosellini.
“The real advantage of neurostimulation is time control,” Cauller adds. “You can turn it on and off as needed.”
How it Works
Pain is transmitted through specialized nervous system cells. These neurons send electrical pulses to the brain, where they are interpreted as pain. MicroTransponder’s device uses electrical pulses to interact with the nerve fibers to block the pain signal from ever reaching the brain.
Doctors can inject the stimulator, which is the size of a grain of sand, with a hypodermic needle in a simple non-surgical procedure. Patients will then be able to control stimulus parameters using a wireless, hand-held device.
MicroTransponder has recruited an impressive team, including Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard Weiner, one of the foremost neurosurgeons in the country. Weiner is bringing clinical expertise to collaborate with Cauller in the commercialization effort for the device.
The company is currently working to develop its prototype and form strategic partnerships for product development, manufacturing, and distribution.