Eight promising neuromodulation breakthroughs.
Neuromodulation, the science of regulating nervous system activity for a therapeutic benefit, has the potential to treat nearly any condition in the body through regulation of the nervous system. Early neuromodulation clinical studies have yielded both promising successes and puzzling failures, highlighting an urgent need for a clearer understanding of which neural targets to influence and how to precisely adjust organ function.
This week, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced eight Phase 1 winners of the Neuromod Prize. The $9.8 million competition, designed and produced by Luminary Labs through a contract with the NASA Tournament Lab, is accelerating the development of targeted neuromodulation therapies. With this prize competition, NIH is bridging the gap between early-stage research and clinical use, bringing innovative therapies to patients.
Phase 1 of the Neuromod Prize received 45 submissions from independent teams, small companies, universities, and medical centers. Teams proposed various types of neuromodulation therapies, such as electrical, ultrasound, acoustic, focal cooling, epidural, and micromagnetic. The winners for Phase 1 are using diverse approaches to stimulate a range of targets, including the spinal cord, sacral, pelvic, and vagus nerves. The winning solutions have demonstrated potential to reduce pain, restore function, and address debilitating conditions — improving patient quality of life with limited side effects.
Meet the eight Phase 1 winners:
- Anthony F. DiMarco, M.D. High-frequency spinal cord stimulation reduces respiratory tract infections and improves bowel management in people with neurological impairment.
- BIOS Health. The Autonomic Therapy Initiative, data-driven stimulations of the vagus nerve using neural biomarkers, modulates cardiac function and minimizes side effects on off target organs.
- General Electric Research, in collaboration with Northwell Health and Yale University. A single, image-guided ultrasound treatment induces a response in the gut-brain sensory pathway to provide sustained remission in Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
- Neuroengineering & Pain Research (NPR) Lab at the University of Connecticut. Synchronized pulse and sinusoidal stimulation of sacral dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and nerve roots relieves chronic visceral pain in the lower abdominal organs by selectively blocking C-fiber neural transmission.
- RBI Medical. Ultraprecise, selective pelvic neuromodulation therapy treats stress urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, and fecal incontinence using a minimally invasive micro-implant.
- University of Louisville Research Foundation Inc. StimXS, neuromodulation of the lumbosacral spinal cord, automatically regulates cardiovascular, respiratory, and urinary systems after spinal cord injury.
- University of Pittsburgh Department of Urology. A multichannel implantable device for sacral-pudendal neuromodulation addresses bladder, bowel, and sexual disorders.
- Warren Grill and collaborators, Duke Biomedical Engineering. Electrical recording and stimulation of the sacral nerve with closed-loop bioelectronic control restores bladder and bowel function.
Phase 1 winners each receive $100,000 and an exclusive invitation to participate in Phase 2 and build on their submissions by conducting proof-of-concept studies. Up to four Phase 2 winners may be selected to advance to Phase 3. The competition will provide technical assistance and additional resources to help teams accelerate and develop their solutions. Phase 2 will have a total potential prize pool of $4 million. Phase 3 will have a total potential prize pool of $5 million.