Pain, what pain?
Saluda, which attracted a $5 million investment from millionaire John Kinghorn’s foundation earlier this year, has been awarded a like amount by the New South Wales Government.
The government grant should, presumably, cover the cost of making a prototype of the implant, as the company’s CEO John Parker, previously the chief technology office at Australian Technology Park Laboratory, said after he got the Kinghorn Foundation investment.
Combining tech smarts with business savvy
Still, the startup could need an additional $20 million for clinical trials, and up to $50 million in total before it can put out a product in the marketplace, according to estimates Parker made in an interview with ABC Radio two years ago.
“Saluda’s goal is to bring this research to commercial reality and see our technology used in every neuromodulation application in the future,” said Parker, who is not only a technologist with expertise in neuro-stimulation but also a graduate of the Harvard Business School.
“This will benefit potentially millions of people suffering chronic pain and other neuropathic diseases. The valuable support and recognition from the New South Wales Government allows us to begin this commercialisation journey with confidence,” he added.
NICTA Chief Executive Hugh Durrant-Whyte has high expectations from Saluda.
NICTA, or National ICT Australia Ltd., “was the crucible for this ground-breaking, early-stage research. I believe there is a great potential for wealth creation for Australia through the development of this patented technology,” he said.
The $5 million grant comes from the inaugural round of the NSW Government’s Medical Devices Fund, a competitive technology development and commercialisation program funded by the NSW Government through the NSW Ministry of Health.
Device has applications beyond back pain
Saluda emerged from NICTA’s ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking: looking at newer ways to relieve pain, without the side-effects or addiction arising from strong medication. Even electrical stimulation of the spinal cord resulted in uncomfortable side-effects.
Thus NICTA came up with a device – “a miniature smart chip slightly smaller than a match-head with a power source about the size of a mobile phone sim card – that first measures nerve responses to electrical stimulation. It then uses this data to automatically adjust the stimulation to a level that is comfortable for the patient. The stimulation is delivered via a minimally-invasive spinal implant.
Even though the device has focused on back pain – the most common across the world – Saluda believes it has potential to relieve pain in many more areas of the human body, notably because of its size. An early prototype of Saluda’s medical device was reportedly trialled on 25 patients at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital, according to The Australian. Its results are not known.