A $1.05M Boost to Our Business Model

Friday 11/13/2015

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In early 2015, we received a $1.05M award from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to support our work over the next five years, allowing us to hire key experts and move forward on our mission to restore function to people with paralysis. We see this funding as a huge vote of confidence in the unique strategy we’ve chosen: to create a novel business model for commercialization.

Around here, one of the phrases you’ll hear us say is, “It’s not the technology, it’s the business model.” What we mean is that we have confidence in our ability to design, build and implant our NNP technology; we know from past experience that people with spinal cord injury will benefit from the restored function it provides; and we fully understand the regulatory requirements that need to be met. But we don’t think that traditional business models for bringing medical devices to small markets have been uniformly successful, so we’re doing something very different. We want to combine the best attributes of a non-profit with the best attributes of a for-profit in order to sustainably serve the needs of people with spinal cord injury.

In future blog posts, we’ll expand more on this idea. But today we want to focus on funding we received this year from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, which will be used to directly support our effort to define this new business model.

First, a little plug for the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, one of the largest and most prestigious foundations currently serving the needs of people with spinal cord injury. Their programs include a diverse set of funding priorities encompassing basic science research, translational research, efforts to improve standards in the delivery of care, and quality of life grants to help individuals with spinal cord injury. The fact that they take such a broad, multifaceted approach shows their awareness of the funding gaps along the spectrum from discovery to commercialization – the so-called “valley of death”. In our discussions with them, they made it clear that they understand the fragile market drivers for the small market of spinal cord injury, and that without a creative approach, efforts to commercialize new technologies for this population could fail.

In late 2014, we submitted a proposal to the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation requesting support for the basic operations of the Institute for Functional Restoration, emphasizing that our mission is to restore function to people with spinal cord injury by creating a new business model, and that we were seeking philanthropic support to complement the grants we already had. The proposal identified critical milestones over the next five years on both the business side as well as the research side. The application went through a peer-review process, was presented to the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation board soon after that, and was awarded in February, 2015.

The award by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation sets the IFR on the path to making substantial progress over the “valley of death”. Over the next five years, we will work to raise the matching funds we believe will be necessary to support the IFR, as well as conduct even more extensive fundraising to support clinical trials.

– Megan Moynahan, Executive Director, Institute for Functional Restoration