The Evolution of a Groundbreaking Neurostimulator
The startup Autonomic Technologies Inc. (ATI; Redwood City, CA) was founded to provide relief to patients suffering from severe headaches: migraines and cluster headaches. Cluster headaches can cause the worst pain that a person can experience according to Peter Goadsby, a neurologist and headache specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. Making matters worse for cluster headache sufferers is that they typically have a higher frequency of attack than those suffering from migraine headaches. In addition, there are few treatments available for cluster headache. Migraine headaches are a more common, if less severe, ailment, affecting roughly 28 million people in the United States alone.
ATI set their sights on treating these severe headaches using neurostimulation to target a nerve bundle known as the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) based on promising research at the Cleveland Clinic.
For the past roughly five years, the company has been at work developing a small implantable device that can be easily placed by a maxillofacial surgeon using a simple surgical procedure that typically takes less than an hour. Initially going after cluster headaches, the firm launched clinical trials in Europe to study their technology's efficacy against cluster headaches, which have yielded promising results.
"One of our cluster headache patients was so excited to lead a normal life after so many years in pain that she ended up getting our logo tattooed behind her ear as her way of saying thanks," says Ryan Powell, design engineer at the company.