A Northern California biomedical company that’s developing an emergency treatment for stroke patients is relocating its business operations in Akron.
Nervive Inc. is opening its international headquarters in Akron this month, company officials and Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic announced Wednesday.
Nervive is developing a noninvasive device called the VitalFlow stimulator that uses electromagnetic energy to help increase blood flow to the brain immediately after a stroke.
The company initially will be housed for three to six months in the Akron Global Business Accelerator, the city’s incubator for technology-related startups, President and Chief Executive Jerry Gibson said. Company officials are looking at permanent sites in Akron with room to expand.
If successful, the potential market for the device is substantial. An estimated 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, according to the National Stroke Association.
“They could grow very fast,” Bob Anthony, who works with the Akron Global Business Accelerator and chairs the Akron BioInvestments Fund’s due diligence committee, said of Nervive. “There could be huge potential.”
Akron Development Corp.’s Akron BioInvestments Funds LLC awarded Nervive a $250,000 convertible note to help the biotech company commercialize the VitalFlow stimulator, Gibson said. When Nervive closes on a round of financing, the Akron BioInvestment Funds note will be converted to preferred shares in the company.
So far, Nervive has secured $2.8 million in funds, Gibson said.
The company opted to locate in Akron, in part, because of the talent pool within Northeast Ohio, as well as the “world-class health-care facilities,” Gibson said.
Nervive’s product development partner, Sparton, is based in Strongsville. That company has previous experience in electromagnetic technology for medical devices.
VitalFlow’s inventor, Dr. Mark Borsody, also has local ties: He earned his medical degree at Ohio State University and studied at the Cleveland Clinic.
“This general area has a deep history in medical technology development,” Gibson said. “There’s a lot of technology people oriented around medical devices located here.”
VitalFlow works by delivering electromagnetic stimulation to the facial nerve through the ear canal with a device that resembles a headset. When the facial nerve is stimulated, it causes the arteries in the brain to dilate, increasing blood flow to the brain, Borsody said.
“What we do is actually make the artery bigger,” he said. “It expands around a blood clot that is obstructing it.”
The device would be used for patients with an ischemic stroke, or one caused by a blockage, Gibson said. Ischemic strokes account for about 85 percent of all strokes.
“Without blood flow, you start losing brain cells,” he said.
The VitalFlow stimulator doesn’t cause any side effects, aside from some facial twitching when the electromagnetic energy is delivered, Gibson said. “It’s not painful at all.”
The company is talking with hospitals in Akron and Cleveland about potential research opportunities to begin testing VitalFlow on stroke patients in 2015 to evaluate the device’s safety.
The first version of the VitalFlow that’s under development will be designed for use in hospital emergency rooms, with an estimated cost of $200,000 per unit, Gibson said. The device eventually could be used in ambulances or even in public locations, similar to how automated external defibrillators (AEDs) now are available throughout most communities to treat sudden cardiac arrest.
Nervive initially will have four employees in Akron, with plans to begin hiring immediately, Gibson said.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.