MicroTransponder reels in $5.5M for stroke neurostimulation device

MicroTransponder raked in $5.5 million to support development of its neurostimulation device for strokes and tinnitus, funds that will come in handy as the company attempts to gain ground with its technology and compete in a saturated market.

Existing investor Green Park & Golf Ventures led the round, and new investors including the UT Horizon fund chipped in cash. Dallas, TX-based MicroTransponder plans to use the financing to commercialize its Vivistim device in Europe in 2016 and to complete additional clinical studies of its product, the company said in a statement.

The company's Vivistim tool treats patients who experience upper limb problems after a stroke by delivering a small amount of neurostimulation to the vagus nerve to strengthen neural pathways in the brain during rehabilitation. The device comprises a small implanted battery and wires that internally connect to the vagus nerve in the neck.

"Most stroke related innovation is focused solely on acute care and the stroke community is eager for alternatives for their chronic stroke patients with motor deficits, especially for those patients who may have had their strokes years ago," MicroTransponder CEO Frank McEachern said in a statement. "Our Vivistim therapy offers our patients the opportunity to return to free independent living and reduce or eliminate the constant care they currently require, often from their spouse or adult child."

Along with the latest round of financing, the company is trumpeting results from a clinical trial of its device. MicroTransponder's VNS stroke trial, which was carried out at two stroke centers in the U.K., looked at how well the company's neurostimulation tool could improve upper limb mobility in patients who suffered an ischemic stroke.

Researchers saw "dramatic improvements" in patients after 6 weeks of treatment with vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy, even in those individuals who had their strokes almost two years ago, Dr. Jesse Dawson, the principal investigator for the study, said in a statement.

Now, MicroTransponder is planning to launch a follow-up study with 20 patients, enrolling individuals in Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis and Glasgow, U.K., who have recently had a stroke and are still have upper limb movement problems.

Meanwhile, the company is competing in a market packed with rivals. Big names such as Boston Scientific ($MDT), St. Jude Medical ($STJ) and Medtronic ($MDT) are all charging ahead with neurostimulation devices, striking deals and nabbing key approvals to increase their footprint in the field.

Back in April, St. Jude shelled out $175 million for Spinal Modulation, getting its hands on the company's Spinal Modulation Axium system for chronic lower limb pain. The buy was meant to bolster St. Jude's fast-growing neuromodulation business and deliver on the company's plan to boost sales.

- read the statement (PDF)