Osage University Partners has added MicroTransponder to a small but mightly portfolio of medical device companies.

MicroTransponder, a US-based medical device developer based on research at University of Texas at Dallas, closed a $53m series E round on Monday featuring spinout-focused venture capital firm Osage University Partners (OUP).

The round was led by US Venture Partners, while Action Potential Venture Capital, Vertical Group, GPG Ventures and Exceller Hunt Ventures also took part.

MicroTransponder is one of only a few medical device companies in OUP’s portfolio, which in life sciences has primarily focused on therapeutics and, to a lesser degree, diagnostics. Nevertheless, its investments here have done well – Hyalex Orthopaedics, a US-based cartilage replacement material spinout of Stanford University, closed a $33m series A round in 2019 and Neuros Medical, a US-based pain treatment spinout of Case Western Reserve University, raised $38.5m in 2021. OUP participated both times. GUV previously spoke with partner Kirsten Leute about the firm’s investment strategy for Talking Tech Transfer.

Founded in 2007, MicroTransponder is exploiting work by co-founder and chief scientific officer Navzer Engineer, whose extensive research in neuroplasticiy provided the steppingstones for the paired bagus nerve stimulation (VNS) platform.

His co-founder Jordan Curnes serves as president and chief operating officer, having previously worked at Huron Consulting.

The series E cash will allow MicroTransponder to commercialise the Vivistim Paired VNS System, its first US Food and Drug Administration-approved neurostimulation device, establishing it as the recommended rehabilitation service to improve patients’ quality of life through increased hand and arm mobility.

MicroTransponder previously raised $11.6m in November 2017, according to a regulatory filing, having already secured $5.5m in a 2015 round that included UT Horizon Fund, run by University of Texas System’s tech transfer arm Office of Technology Commercialization.

Richard Foust joined MicroTransponder as chief executive and director in conjunction with the series E round. He commented:  “Our goal has always been to establish Vivistim Paired VNS as the gold-standard stroke rehabilitation intervention. Today is the day this therapy can help more stroke survivors get back to the daily activities, hobbies and experiences they love.”

Strokes are a serious life-threatening condition that affect 100,000 people in the UK each year, according to the UK Stroke Association, and more than 795,000 annually in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With 1.3 million stroke survivors in the UK alone and medical observations by health system UMPC noting that stroke survivors still battle with “weakness, paralysis, and problems with balance or coordination, visual problems and fatigue”, investment into intra-stroke and post-stroke treatment options is crucial. 

This global urgency to support stroke victims and tackle neurological disorders has long been catching the eye of spinouts. One well-funded company is MindMaze, the Switzerland-based digital neurotherapeutics platform spun out of EPFL, which received $105m in a round led by Concord Health Partners in February 2022. The spinout has produced a digital health platform using artificial intelligence, mixed reality and biosensing to address conditions such as strokes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Roshini Bains

Roshini Bains is the junior news reporter for Global Corporate Venturing and Global University Venturing.