Top European and American Neurotech leaders meet in Helsinki to discuss the state of the industry on both sides of the Atlantic.
The 2nd European Neurotech Investing and Partnering Summit brought major health technology players such as Medtronic, GlaxoSmithKline and Sofinnova to discuss global trends and developments in Europe. Conference attendees shared information and discussed investment driven issues concerning the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and conditions as varied as Alzheimer’s, depression, pain and traumatic injuries to the central nervous system. While certification and regulation weighs heavy on the industry, there was optimism in supporting early stage research through different investment instruments and collaboration between academics, pharmaceuticals and device companies.
Choosing the EU and/or US strategy
Discussion about the differences between the neurotech industry in Europe and the US circled around regulation procedures and availability of funding. While FDA regulation is more stringent, it was clear that Europe should not be the sole strategy for neurotechnology companies, despite a slightly easier path to approval. “A parallel strategy for the US and the EU is the best strategy,” said Johan Christenson from HealthCap. “We need to develop global products. And let’s not forget the potential that there is, or will be, in China.”
Neurotech, a relatively new and a very complex field
Several speakers lamented the slow pace of new neurotech companies – securing funding, gaining approval and looking for new partnerships takes time. While research and clinical trials may prove many exciting innovations that whet the appetite of investors and businessmen alike, neurotech is still an emerging industry and there is much to be proven.
Katie Ellias from Sofinnova Partners remarked that there seemed to be a funding gap for early stage companies. “The series B seems to now be the new series A. We see more risk aversion in the investor community when early stage ventures are concerned.” (see Katie Ellias’ interview from the partnering summit)
This has not hindered GlaxoSmithKline, who launched a 50 million USD fund for funding pioneering bioelectronic medicines and technologies. “We’re looking to fund startups early on in order to foster a healthy ecosystem, where in-house isn’t the only way to support research and early innovation.” said Imran Eba, partner at the Action Potential Venture Capital.
A call for collaboration with an open mind
There is a decisive move towards early stage co-operation and collaboration between device and drug companies and academia. Medtronic Business Director of Alliances Jeff Erb noted that devices used in cardiovascular medicine are modified to work in neurosciences and there is keen interest in saving money and time by using existing, verified devices for new uses. “There is a need to go further with collaboration, to combine engineering knowledge with pharma research in order to deliver the right dosage to exactly the right target. We are trying to speed development times by making our devices available to startups to develop them for new uses. After proof of principle, the company could then decide whether to invest in development of improvements to the device or decide if a completely new device is required.”
See two interviews from Sofinnova Partners’ Katie Ellis:
What are the differences between the investments into nerotechnology in the EU and the US?
How are device manufacturers and pharma companies co-operating?
Neurotechnology encompasses over 800 companies worldwide, developing drugs, devices and diagnostics for brain and nervous system illnesses. Over 2 billion people are afflicted with brain-related illnesses world wide, yet only a small portion of them receive effective treatment. The industry generated over €116 billion annual revenues in 2012.
TEXT: JOHANNA EIRAMO