Medical technology is continuously being developed to treat disease and illness in new, more effective ways. Neuromodulation is a new form of technology, which can be used to address a variety of conditions in specific areas of the body. One of the most common applications for it is in the treatment of mental health issues.
Actipulse Neuroscience has adopted neuromodulation in order to help as many patients as it can. The company has developed a patent-pending technology that uses neuromodulation to treat patients with major depressive disorder right at home. We reached out to Chief Executive Officer Adrien Châtillon to learn more about the company’s goals and how investors can help.
Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?
Actipulse Neuroscience is a medical technology company focused on brain health. We specialize in non-invasive brain stimulation therapeutics for the treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders. We currently have a neuromodulation device on the market to treat major depressive disorder in a hospital setting and are about to start our FDA pivotal trial to bring this treatment directly to the home of the patients. Finally, we have an important clinical pipeline in other central nervous system disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and post-stroke rehabilitation.
What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?
I wanted my third company to have a positive impact in society and in which my motivation would be to help as many patients suffering from these terrible brain and mental illnesses. I believe that every person has a calling in life, and I found mine with Actipulse.
What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?
I have had the pleasure and excitement to previously launch two other startups in my native Europe. There’s a famous saying in entrepreneurship: “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn,” and I’m happy to say that I have learned a lot from these previous two experiences.
The most important lesson I have learned from these now defunct startups is that pursuing investors should not be a goal in itself and that it’s in fact possible to launch and bootstrap a medical startup from just an idea to a profitable business.
What is your vision for the future of the industry you are operating in?
Today, most psychiatric and neurological disorders are treated with medication, which, unfortunately, is not efficient with all patients. For depression alone, four out of 10 patients do not respond to drug treatment or have severe side effects from it. The future is looking bright, as we are seeing how brain technologies — such as neuromodulation — are now being used in combination with drug treatment to bring a better therapeutic response.
Finally, COVID-19 has created a profound impact on mental health, as we clinically know that the virus created neurological side effects on previously infected patients. The second pandemic is a mental health one, unfortunately. However, the silver lining of COVID-19 is twofold. First, there has been a huge focus on mental health lately, as patients are more open to talk about brain illnesses, thus reducing the stigma. Secondly, patients are now keen to be treated from home and not only in a hospital setting. This is why brain and mental health will strongly benefit from telehealth and digital health, where patients will be treated from the comfort of their homes. This is why at Actipulse, we will launch by the end of this year (2021) our FDA trial to bring our hospital based neuromodulation directly to the homes of patients.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
We are 21 people working in Actipulse, composed of neuroscientists, physicians, engineers, and marketing and sales. One person that particularly stands out from the team is Gabriel Villafuerte, who is our chief medical officer. Gabriel is a medical doctor with a PhD in neuroscience and is responsible for all the clinical trials and finding tomorrow’s research projects for the company.
Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?
Our competition — such as Brainsway, Magstim and Neurostar — are focused exclusively on the hospital-setting maket only, meaning that their (very) expensive devices are only sold in major clinics and hospitals.
Our difference is that in Actipulse we focus on two distinct markets: the small next-door physician and the at-home treatment. Our physician-only device is sold to practitioners that cannot afford a hospital setting device, from its costs to its special electrical installation to expensive training.
Finally, our future at-home neuromodulation treatment is aimed at patients that do not want to spend two hours per day for 30 days going to a hospital or clinic to get their treatments — and let me tell you, that’s most of the patients!
What does your business model look like?
We have two business models for our currently sold physician neuromodulation device:
- Direct sales: MDs can acquire the device for a $15,000 upfront fee. This is aimed for mental health clinics.
- Shared-revenue: MDs pay $2,500 set-up fee, and we lease them the device by splitting their monthly revenue 50/50. This is aimed for small psychiatric offices.
The shared-revenue is a great model, as it allows us to have monthly recurring income.
What brought you to equity crowdfunding and how do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
At the end of the day, Actipulse is a medical company, and patients are at the heart of our operations. While searching for venture capital funding to finance the scaling of the company, we realised that we were not synchronized with their values. Their main question focused on “how can increase revenue by charging more money to patients?” But we tend to believe that the right question should be “how can we treat more patients?” Ultimately, we believe that by democratizing our technology, more patients will use it, growing the revenue and valuation of the company.
This is why we chose equity crowdfunding, as we believe that it’s closer to our mission to grow the value of the company for both investors and ourselves while closely sticking to the values of the company.
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
First, that Actipulse Neuroscience is a new breed of medical startups. It was launched and scaled without outside investment in the first four years, reaching $2 million in revenue, profitable in the past two years, while having an important clinical pipeline in central nervous system disorders.
Secondly, we operate in a booming business, and due to COVID-19, there’s an explosive growth in mental and brain health needs. It will be impossible to treat as many patients from a hospital, and Actipulse has the perfect therapeutic device ready to be used from patients’ homes. We are one FDA clearance away from becoming the brain-tech company of tomorrow.
Last but not least, Actipulse has an important clinical pipeline in blockbuster neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease. As a matter of fact, the results from our Alzheimer’s pilot trial will be published next week in Frontiers in Neurology titled “Use of Fast gamma magnetic stimulation over the left prefrontal dorsolateral cortex for the treatment of MCI and mild Alzheimer’s disease: A double-blind, randomized, sham-controlled, pilot study.”
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
A couple of exit strategies come to mind for Actipulse. The first and fastest one is being acquired by a major medical device company (Abbot, Boston Scientific, J&J) once we receive FDA clearance for our home-based neuromodulation device (expected by Q3 2023).
The second one would be a pharmaceutical company acquiring Actipulse, as we are currently doing research on how to use our proprietary neuromodulation to boost drug efficacy when used in a combination therapy. This makes us a prime acquisition target for a pharma company.
We look forward to seeing where Adrien and his team take the company. Actipulse Neuroscience is currently raising on Republic.