Entrepreneur of the Week: Shai Gozani, MD, PhD, NeuroMetrix
NeuroMetrix develops wearable medical technology and point-of-care tests for management of chronic pain, nerve diseases, and sleep disorders.
We spoke with President and CEO Shai Gozani, MD, PhD about NeuroMetrix and the opportunities they see in the 50+ market.
Longevity Network: What does Quell, the company, do?
Shai Gozani: The company name is actually NeuroMetrix, and we are a commercial stage, innovation driven healthcare company combining bioelectrical and digital medicine to address chronic health conditions including chronic pain, sleep disorders, and diabetes. The company’s lead product is Quell®, an over-the-counter wearable therapeutic device for chronic pain. The company also markets DPNCheck®, a rapid point-of-care test for diabetic neuropathy, which is the most common long-term complication of Type 2 diabetes.
LN: Can you tell us about your products and how they work?
SG: Quell is a wearable device to treat chronic pain. It is lightweight and can be worn during the day while active, and at night while sleeping. It has been cleared by the FDA for treatment of chronic pain without a prescription. At its core, it is a high powered neurostimulator that electrically activates the body’s ability to decrease pain perception through release of endogenous pain modulators called enkephalins. In a recent study, 81% of Quell users reported an improvement in their chronic pain and two-thirds reported reduced use of pain medications. Quell seeks to go beyond its direct analgesic benefits towards precision medicine. It does this by tracking biometric and health parameters such as sleep, activity, gait, and pain to improve the user’s understanding of their chronic pain and its impact on their health, and importantly, the reciprocal influence of their behaviors, such as how much they sleep, on their chronic pain. The data is presented to the user in the Quell smartphone app and is also aggregated in the Quell Health Cloud. Quell users can also start, stop, and adjust therapy discreetly via the Quell app.
LN: What opportunity did you want to address with the development of your wearable technology?
SG: There are over 100M Americans and 1.5B people worldwide with chronic pain. The US spends $600B annually on the direct and indirect costs of chronic pain, yet more than half of pain sufferers report inadequate pain control. Moreover, many people in chronic pain have poor sleep, low levels of activity, anxiety, depression and generally poor health. We set out to develop a wearable device that would both directly reduce pain through neurostimulation and also help our users manage their overall health using digital medicine technology such as sleep and activity monitoring with smartphone and cloud integration.
LN: Who are your primary users? How do your products benefit the 50+ population?
SG: Our primary users are people in chronic pain who are seeking to manage their chronic pain using fewer pain medications. Our typical user is over the age of 40, has a college education and has an active lifestyle that they are trying to maintain. Quell is ideal for the 50+ population that is seeking to maintain a high quality of life with fewer medications. Moreover, the integrated health monitoring technology helps our users evaluate and optimize their sleep, activity, gait and other metrics.
LN: How did you assemble your team?
SG: Carefully! We try to hire people who are passionate about our mission. Our employees are truly excited by the opportunity to develop, manufacture, market and support leading medical technology that improves the lives of our customers. We have a flat organizational structure so we hire self-starters who are not afraid to be put into key roles regardless of their prior experience.
LN: How has Quell the company differed from what you envisioned it would be (if at all)?
SG: I never thought that one day our products would be available on Amazon and on the shelves of leading retailers such as Target and CVS. When we started we were entirely focused on the professional health care market, developing and selling products to physicians and health care systems. We evolved into our present direct-to-consumer products and effort partially out of necessity and partially out of seeing a great opportunity to directly educate and engage consumers with chronic pain.
LN: What do you wish you had known before developing your products?
SG: I wish we had a better understanding of the challenges of high volume, low cost manufacturing. I have come to learn that manufacturing is really an extension of product development and design for manufacturability is not just a buzz word. I now believe that manufacturing expertise and input is essential at the earliest stages of product development to ensure that the eventual product can be manufactured so as to minimize cost while maximizing reliability and quality. This cannot be achieved by simply handing over a product design to a third-party manufacturing team, no matter how good that team is. That internal or external manufacturing partner needs to be involved from the beginning.
LN: What most excites you about the aging and or health technology market?
SG: The aging or older adult market is exciting for multiple reasons. First, it is a large and growing market. More importantly, the individuals making up this market have every intention of remaining healthy and active, with a high quality of life, as long as possible. They are much more technology savvy then they are given credit and are looking for technology solutions to help them maintain the life and goals they aspire to achieve.
LN: What is your best piece of advice for startups who want to include or target the 50+ market?
SG: You have to truly understand the lives of individuals in this age group. What chronic health conditions, such as pain, are they dealing with and how? What are their quality of life aspirations? How do they want to live? I find that most wearable technology is designed by and for young adults to optimize their fitness levels. These products are mostly vanity products. This is not to say that they are not important or useful, but to truly touch the lives of older adults you have to understand both health and disease, because they are intertwined. Because of this I recommend that startups targeting the 50+ market understand and accept the fact that their products may very well be regulated by the FDA and similar agencies in other countries, and they should develop the expertise to address these challenges early in their development because they impact the company culture and mission in fundamental ways.
LN: Do you have any other products in development?
SG: At this time, we are narrowly focused on continual improvement in the Quell technology.
LN: Where do you see Quell five years from now?
SG: We are looking to continue improving Quell, making it more effective, with expanded clinical indications, and even more sophisticated.
LN: What health or wellness technology do you hope exists by the time you retire?
SG: I have no plans to retire! I actually don’t think in those terms and remain focused on building great solutions for people today – whether retired or not.
LN: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
SG: I want to encourage the bright motivated entrepreneurs to apply themselves to the older adult market and chronic disease, even though it may not seem like the most intuitive space for them. The bulk of our national health care spending is on this age group and the potential impact on lives and the economy is massive.
Shai N. Gozani, MD, PhD founded NeuroMetrix, Inc. in 1996 as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. NeuroMetrix is a publicly traded (Nasdaq:NURO) medical technology company that develops innovative wearable technology and point-of-care neurodiagnostic devices. The Company’s products are used all over the world to help physicians and patients better manage chronic pain, neurological diseases, and sleep disorders. Over 2.5 million patients have benefited from the Company’s technology over the past 15 years. Dr. Gozani has led the Company from a venture capital backed start-up, through an initial public offering on Nasdaq, through development of a successful diagnostics business, and presently into the wearable technology sector. Dr. Gozani currently serves as Chairman of the board of directors and as President and Chief Executive Officer. Dr. Gozani has published over 30 peer-reviewed scientific articles and has been awarded 25 US and international patents. Dr. Gozani holds a B.A. degree in Computer Science, an M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (Biomedical Engineering Focus) and a Ph.D. in Neurobiology, from the University of California, Berkeley. He also received an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology at M.I.T.
To learn more about NeuroMetrix, visit their website.