We are excited to announce the 2022 cohort of Praxis SCI Accelerate, a 12 week in residence accelerator program focused on advancing the commercialization of technology to transform the lives of people with spinal cord injury (SCI). Our cohort, encompassing companies across the key SCI focus areas for Praxis represent a variety of backgrounds and have already demonstrated significant traction in their fields. These companies have been carefully selected by a panel of SCI consumers, researchers, commercial leaders in healthcare — as addressing key gaps in care for people with SCI, but also with a potential to transform healthcare outcomes for the broader community.
Comphya is a Swiss medical device company, spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). Their team is developing the first implantable neurostimulator to treat erectile dysfunction in non-responders to oral drugs, such as spinal cord injury individuals. To have sexual intercourse, non-responders to oral drugs resort to intrapenial injections or penile implants, which are quite problematic and outdated. Injections are effective, however, it causes severe side effects, such as pain, discomfort, bleeding, hematoma, priapism, and penile fibrosis. A penile prosthesis is the last therapeutic option, it is an irreversible and destructive method with the risk of intra- and post-operative complications, frequently requiring surgical revision. Thus, there is a clear unmet clinical need for better modalities to treat ED.
The technology is based on neuroprosthetics principles and consists of implanting electrodes in the pelvic cavity, which will selectively activate the nerve to trigger penile erection. The device, named CaverSTIM, will provide self-controlled stimulation (via a wireless remote control) to the distal portion of the disrupted cavernous nerve to achieve and maintain a physiological penile erection for the duration of the intercourse. This envisioned medical device will improve the actual methods for the treatment of erectile dysfunction in spinal cord injury individuals, providing a safer, non-traumatic, comfortable, spontaneous and more effective alternative.
Rodrigo Fraga, co-founder and CEO
Rodrigo is BSc in pharmacy and Ph.D. in pharmacology. He has over 10 years’ experience in the scientific space of vascular biology, sexual medicine, and male erection. In the last years, he published over 60 scientific articles in prestigious international journals. His scientific work on sexual medicine has been recognized by the International Society of Sexual Medicine with the Jean-Francois Ginestié Prize-2012. Rodrigo holds 8 inventions patented in the field of cardiovascular diseases, erectile dysfunction, and alopecia. In the last 5 years, after inventing the core technology of Comphya together with Nikos Stergiopulos, Rodrigo has gathered business skills acting on fundraising, business development, intellectual property, and the general management of the company.
Mikael Sturny, co-founder and CTO
Mike is a life science engineer and Ph.D. graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). Throughout his education and doctoral studies in biotechnology and bioengineering, he brings strong expertise in biomedical technologies and medical device development, microfabrication, prototyping, quality management as well as clinical study management.
Fiona Joseph, Director of Clinical and Regulatory Affairs
Fiona is expert in regulatory and clinical affairs. She is biomedical engineer (MSc) graduated from the EPFL. During her studies in Life Sciences engineering, she develops abilities in biomedical technologies, neuro-engineering, medical device development, and regulatory and clinical affairs.
Game Changer Technologies Inc. is a BC based technology company, focusing on bringing solutions to improve the quality of life for those living with SCI/mobility issues. With our patent pending technology, Game Changer is developing a new class of wheeled mobility technology.
Jeff Scott, co-founder
Jeff Scott broke his neck in 2010 while snowboarding leaving him a complete tetraplegic at the C5/6 vertebrae. Jeff has spent the last decade involved in adaptive sport, co-founding a nonprofit, pioneering backcountry sit skiing along with winning multiple national medals in wheelchair rugby and track and field. He has regained a lot of independence through this process and continues to as that has been a goal from the beginning.
Brent Nimeck, co-founder
Brent Nimeck, co-founder, has spent 25 years working on challenging energy projects in challenging location around the world. Due to the pandemic, the opportunity arose to work on another tough project. Brent, grew up around persons with SCI and himself, plays rec level wheelchair rugby when he can. Always taking things apart, Brent has a lifelong experience making things work.
Inteligex is a Canadian biotechnology company developing therapies to reduce the personal, societal and financial costs incurred by spinal cord injuries (SCI) and other diseases of the central nervous system (CNS). Currently, there are no effective regenerative medicine treatments for SCI and many other diseases of the CNS. Inteligex has developed two proprietary bioengineered neural stem cell-based products (one targeting the acute stage of injury and one focusing on the chronic stage). Inteligex’s cells are specifically designed to integrate into the injury microenvironment and have demonstrated significantly enhanced functional recovery in high-fidelity preclinical models of SCI. Inteligex is now working to translate these human stem cell technologies for use in the clinic.
Michael G. Fehlings, Founder and President
Dr. Fehlings obtained his MD and PhD from the University of Toronto (UofT). He is a Staff Neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital and Senior Scientist at the Krembil Research Institute, which is part of the University Health Network, Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Surgery at UofT and Co-Director of the UofT Spine Program. He has received numerous awards including the Olivecrona Award, the Henry Farfan Award and the Richard H. Winn prize. Dr. Fehlings is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and the Royal Society of Canada.
Dr. Rafi Hofstein, Executive Chairman of the Board
Dr. Hofstein came to Toronto from Israel in 2009 to assume the position of President & CEO MaRS Innovation (recently renamed as Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners, TIAP). At this position, Dr. Hofstein led the creation of over fifty start-up companies primarily in the healthcare space. Among the companies of primary note are Triphase, Fibrocor and Notch Therapeutics, in which Dr. Hofstein has been a cofounder and a director. In addition, Dr. Hofstein is a member of the board of several not-for-profit organizations in Quebec and Ontario.
Christopher S. Ahuja, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Medical Officer
Christopher Ahuja obtained his MD from Queen’s University, Canada and is completing his residency training in Neurosurgery at the University of Toronto. He is currently a member of the Surgeon-Scientist Training Program at the University of Toronto where he is specializes in developing translationally-relevant bioengineered human stem cell therapies for spinal cord injury. Dr. Ahuja joined Inteligex in 2018 where he leads translational research and development of the cell therapy pipeline.
Paul S. Bradshaw, Chief Operating Officer
Paul Bradshaw obtained his PhD from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) at the Royal Cancer (Marsden) Hospital, University of London, UK where he studied the neurological and cancer syndrome Ataxia-Telangiectasia (A-T). He subsequently undertook post-doctoral studies in the Program of Genetics and Genome Biology at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada before moving to the Department of Genetics and Development in the Krembil Research Institute at the University Health Network (UHN). Dr. Bradshaw joined Inteligex in 2018 where he heads corporate development.
Mamad Khazaei, Chief Scientific Officer
Mamad Khazaei is the head of stem cell biology, differentiation, as well as cell and GMP manufacturing operations. He joined Inteligex in 2018 where his research is focused on the discovery, development, and delivery of innovative neural stem cells and next-generation cell therapy products. Trained as a cell biologist and inspired by transforming patients’ lives, his research has enabled Inteligex to create a leadership position in neural stem cell programs, which offer hope for safe and effective treatments for neurodegenerative diseases including spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy.
Tim Worden, Business Operations Manager
Tim Worden holds a PhD in biomechanics from the University of Guelph, where he studied the effects of perception and training on human locomotion in complex environments. He has expertise in scientific communication and has been the Editorial Coordinator for Dr. Fehlings’ research team at the Krembil Research Institute since 2017. Dr. Worden joined Inteligex in 2020 as the Business Operations Manager.
Munevo GmbH / Munevo Inc. is an early stage medical device company that focuses on assistive technology based on smart glasses. The company is a spin-off from the Technical University of Munich in Germany. Many people that live with SCI have to use special controls to navigate and control their power wheelchair. Those solutions are mostly mechanical and don’t allow self-adaptation, thus people need to wait for a supplier or therapists to adapt it for them.
Munevo developed the first wheelchair control system based on smart glasses called munevo DRIVE. Through simple and adaptive head motions people can control their wheelchair hands-free while being able to connect to their environment. The solution has been approved as medical device in the EU in 2019 and has now started commercialization in North America.
Claudiu Leverenz, Chief Executive Officer
Claudiu Leverenz graduated in computer science and business from the Technical University of Munich and founded munevo in 2018. He was nominated Forbes „30 under 30“ in the category Science & Healthcare. 2018 he joined the Global Shapers Munich, an initiative by the World Economic Forum, to support local social projects, where he was invited to speak about Disability and Inclusion at the Annual Meeting in Davos 2020. He serves on the board of the hopelovescompany, an NGO to support children of parents with ALS.
Michelle Halpain, Regulatory/Reimbursement Manager
Michelle Halpain has a background in Molecular Biology from UC Berkeley and joined munevo 1,5 years ago to support the regulatory and reimbursement department. Since then she was able to adapt the EU regulatory towards the new MDR regulation and pave the path towards FDA registration. Michelle also serves as Vice President of a family foundation granting scholarships to highly motivated scholars in South Florida.