Neuright Combines Therapy and Diagnostic Functions to Diagnose and Treat Peripheral Neuropathy

Rev1 engages with dozens of startups in life sciences, digital health, and healthcare IT every year. Many of those are spinouts from our strategic research partners, which include The Ohio State University (OSU), Nationwide Children’s, and Ohio Health.

More spinouts are one of the great benefits of our region’s commitment to and collaboration with entrepreneurial startups. We call that The Backyard Effect, and it impacts everything we do. (Read more about this phenomenon in Forbes.)

Our “backyard” potential grows exponentially when a scientist/entrepreneur joins one of Ohio’s top research institutions and then expands her entrepreneurial venture from its origins elsewhere to the Rev1 Labs innovation center on OSU’s SciTech campus here in the Midwest.

That’s the story of Neuright, Inc., a biotech start-up and academic spin-out that Co-founder Kristy Townsend, Associate Professor at OSU, expanded to Ohio from its prior founding in Maine.

The origin of the company’s name says it all: Make neuropathy right in all its forms.

“Neuright is developing a medical theragnostic platform that will diagnose and treat peripheral neuropathy,” Dr. Townsend said. Neuright’s initial product is a portable, wireless, affordable, and easy-to-use device to diagnose small fiber peripheral neuropathy.

“Beyond our initial device, we now also have a provisional patent through OSU and incubator space at Rev1’s site on Kinnear Road to expand Neuright’s work in Ohio,” said Dr. Townsend. “The diagnostic just completed pre-clinical testing and is now moving into a first-in-human trial in partnership with neurologists and neurological surgeons at OSU.”

Peripheral neuropathy is a large-scale, global health condition.

Peripheral neuropathy causes the peripheral nerves that innervate a person’s tissues and organs to die back, often affecting the small-diameter nerve endings in the skin and underlying tissues. This damage to peripheral nerves eventually breaks down communications to and from these nerves and the central nervous system, or brain. Pain, loss of sensation and function, and even amputation can result if left undetected and untreated.

An estimated 20 million people in the United States suffer the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. This condition primarily affects diabetic and pre-diabetic patients, aged individuals, HIV patients, those who have undergone cancer treatments, and 30 other conditions.

“If your brain can’t talk to the peripheral tissues and organs, whether that is fingers and toes or your internal organs, you can’t control the functions of those tissues,” Townsend said. “Bigger nerves already have available diagnostic tests in clinical facilities, but our device is more sensitive to the tiny nerves in peripheral neuropathy, the ones more commonly affected with the top causes of neuropathy.”

Neuright conducted extensive market validation steps through the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps™ program.

“We interviewed more than 100 patients with neuropathy,” she said. “These patients are truly suffering through the process of not knowing their diagnosis—and today, there are no good options for them. But increasingly, new treatments are becoming available. Knowing you have neuropathy earlier can mitigate the progression of the disease.”

Neuright has a plan in place for FDA-defined clinical trials. The company has applied for state grants and is on a 12-month plan to have manufacturing capability in Ohio for MVP prototypes to be used in the critical first-in-human testing. “We have mitigated supply chain issues,” Dr. Townsend said. “We have a plan to source all the parts, and the device is simple and inexpensive to manufacture.”

A career in science and research is powerful preparation for entrepreneurship.

“My day job continues to be as a professor and researcher running a research program in neurobiology and energy balance,” Townsend said. “The connection between entrepreneurial “side work” and my day job is that as a scientist, you get used to failure and unexpected findings—the jumping back and then bouncing back as more exciting discoveries come from unexpected data. Scientists are also used to receiving constant pushback about claims and uncertain funding. It’s the same as in entrepreneurship – so we are well-equipped for this world.”

Dr. Townsend finds that learning works both ways; building a company also helps her in her day job. “Through the business work we are doing, and lots of business classes and organizational classes, I have learned so much about interpersonal and project management,” she said. “Managing a business and a research program is a cross-functional discipline story.”

With experience from two different universities that support faculty members who are building spinouts, Dr. Townsend notices a change. “So much of the commercialization experience is fresh and new for the institutions,” she said. “The support programs are getting better and more refined, which is crucial at public universities. We need to translate and provide our research to the communities around us to create pathways to get the research out there, actually helping people who are the stakeholders at public universities.”

In this effort, she said that Rev1 has been incredibly useful. “Having incubator space at Rev1 allows us to separate and meet; we can’t do that at our regular office space. The learning labs they operate have been top-notch,” Dr. Townsend said.

“Rev1 has also been great at connecting us to people in the community and to resources they know will benefit our commercialization and product development work,” she said. “Early on, we didn’t know how to navigate this process, and often, we don’t know what we don’t know. It is an essential partnership with incubators and accelerators like Rev1. If more work like this is going to happen out of universities, and it should, we need a partner like Rev1.”