Nerve injuries have a broad range of symptoms, ranging from mild discomfort to life-long impairment. Unfortunately, there are no treatments for injured nerves, leaving patients to accept impairments including pain, numbness and loss of movement. During Dr. Mike Willand’s graduate studies at McMaster and postdoctoral training at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto he learned first-hand how significant this problem is for patients with nerve damage.
“The engineer in me said, this is a ripe problem for creating a unique engineering solution,” says Willand.
While they were McMaster Biomedical Engineering Masters students, Sergio Aguirre and Mike Willand had always shared start-up aspirations and in 2016 they founded Epineuron, a medical technology company developing the world’s first therapeutic treatment for peripheral nerve damage. Epineuron accelerates nerve regeneration to improve sensation and movement recovery after nerve damage and the technology has been designated a breakthrough device by the US FDA.
“Most medical devices are engineered for one use and one part of the body, but nerves are everywhere. The device we were inventing needed to work for all parts in the body and seamlessly fit a wide spectrum of surgical procedures. This is very unique to our technology,” says Willand.
The potential impact of their technology is made clear every time they speak with surgeons. “When we explain our solution and how we developed it – seeing the surgeons faces and knowing how useful it would be for them, is a huge success for us. A small but big win in a way.” Willand adds.
On March 27th, 2019 Epineuron was awarded first place at Innovation Factory’s 6th Annual Synapse Life Science Pitch Competition for their innovative health science technology. “The training provided through the Synapse Competition helped us to see what we weren’t communicating properly and identify the key points needed to resonate with our audience. Synapse will also give us the opportunity to put a spotlight on the problem,” says Aguirre
Innovation Factory and the ecosystem in Hamilton have played a large role in the success of their technology, and the two give Hamilton credit in being more approachable than some other Ontario start-up hubs, such as Toronto. Aguirre has also been working with Innovation Factory for many years. “The best way to learn and network is to engage with people who are at various stages of entrepreneurship. Innovation Factory provides a platform for this with structured programming and mentorship.”
Epineuron has big plans for the next 5 years, Aguirre and Willand have created a set of strict milestones to achieve. Aguirre explained they will have units of their products produced within the next 12-18 months. “This will help us to refine our product, iterate concepts and generate data. Data drives investment and market adoption,” adds Aguirre. Once capital is raised the team plans to bring Epineuron to market and begin sales in 2021.
Epineuron plans to be the world’s first therapeutic device engineered to supercharge the nerve and accelerate regeneration. “I don’t want to live in a world where someone’s life could derail if they suffer a peripheral nerve injury because there is no solution available to help them recover better and faster. We want to make sure Epineuron is there,” says Willand.
Learn more about Epineuron Technologies by visiting epineurontech.com.