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Crowdfunding for spine technology? Meet the company with a spine device Kickstarter

posted Aug 7, 2014, 1:34 AM by Siamak Ebarhimi
Canton, Ohio-based Apollo Implants is seeking funding from two crowdfunding sources to pursue its new technology for minimally invasive spine surgery.CrowdFunding advertizing

The new procedure injects nano-polymer into the disc space to create a new spinal disc that could alleviate deterioration and related problems. Currently, spinal fusion is most often used to treat spinal disorders, but there have been several problems reported with fusions in the past, including failed surgery and adjacent segment disease.


Apollo's solution is a minimally invasive procedure to mechanically stabilize the spine from within for maximum range of motion. In order to develop and market the technology, Apollo has taken a creative approach: crowdfunding. The company has campaigns on Kickstarter and Indigogo to allow the general public to fund this new technology.


Crowdfunding has become a popular way to build new companies and projects over the past few years, including music albums, documentaries and inventions like Oona, which lets customers attach their smart phones to any surface. Project "backers" are
encouraged to donate at different levels — from $5 to thousands of dollars at a time — with incentives to contribute at higher levels until the company's goal is reached.CrowdFunding marketing


Hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised on Kickstarter, including one project that raised nearly $1 million, according to The Atlantic. This is a clear departure from the medical device company's usual route for funding new developments, but could be a new trend in the future as other funding sources dry up.


Traditional funding sources include venture capital, angel investors and banks, but as development costs rise it becomes increasingly difficult for upstart companies to achieve the necessary capital to move forward with development and clinical studies that ultimately lead to FDA approval and the ability to market widely in the United States.Kickstarter Marketing


A 2011 article in the Star Tribune reports venture capitalists balking at the increased cost and risk of bringing medical device start-ups to the market, with the estimated capital at $20 million to achieve the appropriate amount of clinical data to satisfy strategic partners. The millions needed to become a significant player in the spine device market tops what most crowdfunded sources can deliver, but the funding could be a critical first step for companies looking to refine their offering for bigger investors.


But will surgeons and the public take interested in funding a solution for back pain the way they support their favorite local artists and pet projects? Apollo Implants is banking on it. Founded by Eric VonGuten, DC, who currently serves as CEO, the company's goal is to reach $250,000 to do the initial stress study and initial implant lab testing. Reaching $500,000 would allow the company to conduct the hematological assays and start investigating volunteer trials.Indiegogo Marketing


Any additional funding would go toward a grant proposal to offer treatment to military veterans with spinal injuries. Neither Dr. VonGruten nor his staff will collect salaries or pay from the study funding, making it a truly unique effort.


It will likely be an uphill battle to crowdfund and pursue the new treatment. But it's estimated that nearly everyone will experience back pain at some point in their lives — or at least know someone who suffers from chronic back pain — so maybe seeking funding from the general public for spine treatment advances isn't such a long-shot after all.crowdfunding websites

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By David Khorram