Catching up with $200K Challenge Winner Drug Free Therapeutix

Drug Free Therapeutix DFTx

In April of 2018, the Indianapolis-based life sciences startup Drug Free Therapeutix (DFTx) was named a winner of the 7th annual M2D2 $200K Challenge. Their innovation: a universal neurostimulation dosing system for pain management. The 2020 Challenge is coming up in March, and because we’re always interested in the progress of past winners, we reached out to DFTx CEO Stephen Hourigan to get an update.

Let’s start with some background on DFTx and its innovation.

“Our company has developed two important innovations that when combined could positively change the availability and efficacy of nerve stimulation for the future. DFTx has licensed two technologies from the Purdue Research Foundation including the Extended Activation Control Technology (EXACT) that is a nerve control software that identifies a customized nerve stimulus protocol for each pain patient’s physiology. The introduction of the DFTx nerve control software combined with an implantable stimulator will produce the benefits of closed-loop therapy that has been proven in clinical trials in the Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) market to be a superior treatment to the legacy fixed-output stimulators in the SCS market.

DFTx CEO Stephen Hourigan pitches his company’s innovation at the 2018 M2D2 $200K Challenge.

“In addition, since implantable closed-loop therapies will require more power capacity to transmit key data to wearables or database systems, DFTx has developed the potential to combine our EXACT nerve control software with a communications innovation called Human Body Communication (HBC). The benefit of HBC is that in the lab setting we are talking about 1/100 of the power capacity needed vs Low Energy Bluetooth to transmit data—which addresses one of the challenges for medical device companies to leverage the closed-loop therapy protocol. The potential to combine the EXACT nerve control software with HBC allows us to create a ‘Smart ASIC’ that could become the de facto standard of delivering closed-loop therapy for medical device companies in the future.

Enter the 2020 $200K Challenge by February 16!

“The last part of the innovation stems from the development of customized nerve stimulus parameters for a variety of chronic disease patients. This allows us to create a potential of a ‘nerve atlas’ that becomes a guidepost for physicians in treating patients with multiple chronic diseases, thereby improving therapy and better managing chronic disease patients.”

What has happened to DFTx since becoming a 2018 Challenge Winner?

“We have benefited from assistance from Boston Scientific on the Regulatory and Reimbursement. We also discovered that reimbursement obstacles on securing pharmacy benefit reimbursement codes on non-invasive stimulation helped us pivot to identifying combination strategies with existing SCS implantable products that can benefit from integrating with our EXACT nerve control software in order to deliver closed-loop therapies.

Has participating in the $200K Challenge made a difference for your organization?

“The answer is a resounding yes. The effort bringing a medical device to market is challenging as there are numerous challenges that are unknown until you are talking to the proverbial gatekeepers in the regulatory and reimbursement environments, like the FDA and CMS. The introduction to key potential advisors and companies looking to innovate has accelerated our discovery process sufficient to pivot.”

Thanks, Stephen, for the update—we wish DFTx continued success!

Learn more about DFTx.