Officials at Spark Biomedical and AcuityMD think their partnership could accelerate the commercialization of Spark’s potentially game-changing platform.
Spark Biomedical develops a topical, minimally invasive medical device for alleviating opioid withdrawal symptoms. AcuityMD has a platform for helping medical device companies accelerate commercial access to their products.
Together, they seek to provide a pathway to life-restoring sobriety for millions suffering from opioid addiction. Last month, Spark and AcuityMD announced a partnership to accelerate the expansion of the former’s technology. The FDA-approved Sparrow therapy system represents a drug-free tool for helping treat opioid use disorder. It sends mild electrical impulses to the brain to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
AcuityMD’s data-driven commercial platform supports this expansion effort.
“We saw an opportunity in using the AcuityMD platform to ensure that we’re getting the right device in front of the right provider that serves the right patients at the right time,” said Spark Biomedical CCO Dan Wagner, speaking to MassDevice at last month’s The MedTech Conference. “When we’ve done that, it’s phenomenal.”
How AcuityMD is helping Spark and its neuromod
Acuity’s platform aims to bring physicians and hospitals new, innovative technologies. CEO and co-founder Michael Monovoukas said the goal is to do so “as efficiently as possible.”
Its clients include a slew of medical device companies, ranging from large enterprises to pre-commercial startups. Essentially, Monovoukas explained, the company helps them identify opportunities for them to sell their products.
“We help them identify which surgeons or which physicians and which accounts would be good fits to sell their products,” he said. “So, if they’re launching a new product, we help them come out with the target list for where to prioritize their sales resources. Then, once they kind of go out and target those surgeons, target those accounts, they can track who’s actually using their product and who’s not using their product and build a database around their product users to help connect more intimately with their customers to help fuel future products that they might want to launch in the future as well.”
Monovoukas said the excitement for AcuityMD centers around “empowering entrepreneurs and startups” that break the mold in medical technology.
In Spark’s case, AcuityMD is helping to move patients away from incumbents in the pharmaceutical industry and toward Spark’s technology.
“There are so many of these innovative technologies that struggle to find their way to market because it’s hard to crack into a big, highly bureaucratic health system,” Monovoukas said. “You have a lot of these technologies that kind of die on the vine, which I think is unacceptable for the industry.”
More about Spark Biomedical’s Sparrow system
Spark officials say their Sparrow system offers a safe, topical application of neurostimulation around the ear. They describe it as a comfortable, drug-free treatment option to help overcome acute opioid withdrawal.
Applied daily, users typically wear the technology for the waking hours of the day. However, users can adjust their levels of stimulation and remove the device if they need to go about daily tasks, such as showering or sleeping, then reapply by themselves.
According to Wagner, Spark’s founders sought a better method than the traditionally implantable neurostimulation systems.
He said opioid withdrawal represents one of the biggest barriers to recovery from substance use disorder. To put it another way, people want to quit opioids, but they fear the withdrawal.
“We see it as an opportunity with our device where we can drastically reduce that fear,” said Wagner. “The neat thing with a device, as opposed to a pharmaceutical, is that we’re showing efficacy the patient can feel and sense within 30 minutes to an hour. … By day three, 100% of patients who use our device are having a statistically significant reduction in opioid withdrawal scores.”
Sparrow therapy provides users a pathway into what Wagner calls “the real recovery.” That includes compliance with therapy, counseling and life changes. In addition, Sparry helps decrease the barrier to entry for people seeking treatment for opioid abuse.
“It’s a phenomenal opportunity, especially given the opioid crisis our country is experiencing today,” Wagner said.
How Spark and AcuityMD aim to make an impact
Wagner said about 16,000 recovery centers operate across the U.S. Responses from these centers and providers indicate that the technology, compared to using pharmaceuticals, “is night and day.” Whereas drugs used as tools against opioid addiction can be diverted in communities, Spark’s system represents a different avenue.
“You can’t divert our device,” said Wagner. “The patient can’t hurt themselves with our device. So it’s a huge thing. And with using the AcuityMD platform, the vision is to enable our sales team to find those providers who are at the very beginning of the innovation and adoption cycle for a new technology like ours. That’s where we start.”
Monovoukas explained that an attractive part of working with Spark is a certain “power” associated with selling the technology. He said it’s selling into a market that “no one from the industry has ever touched.”
AcuityMD can harness important insights, log into a system and immediately understand a market that is foreign to the medical device industry. Without the need for a robust sales operation or analytics infrastructure, it provides a massive advantage to get Spark’s technology to these places.
“We’re really excited about empowering Spark and others to get their products out to market more efficiently so that they can do a lot more with a team of inside sales reps with highly targeted messaging to the right physicians at the right pain centers,” said Monovoukas. “Instead of needing 500 sales reps across the country, they can do a lot more damage.”
Spark sees these capabilities as its next step for scaling its business nationwide.
“Moving to the AcuityMD platform was all about configuration and using just using the system,” said Wagner. “The lift was basically zero for us to just move into the AcuityMD platform and empower our team to bring the message forward. That was really exciting for a startup medical device company like Spark Biomedical.”