$7 million deal for spin-off

September 23, 2004, vol. 31, no. 2
By Diane Luckow



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A $7.172 million deal to acquire SFU spin-off company Neurostream Technologies Inc. demonstrates the value of the SFU research involved, says Teri Lydiard, a technology manager with SFU's university industry liaison office who assisted with the spin-off seven years ago.

SFU is a shareholder in Neurostream, she notes, and the acquisition by Victhom Human Bionics Inc. of Quebec may eventually earn some money for the university.

Neurostream's technology is based on SFU kinesiology professor Andy Hoffer's 30 years of research on safe and effective implantable electrodes that can sense microvolt-level signals produced by nerves.

His research has also explored how to apply these emerging technologies to restore normal functioning in patients suffering from severe disabilities such as spinal cord damage, stroke, urinary incontinence, limb amputations or chronic pain.

Since starting Neurostream, Hoffer and his team have developed a lead product, Neurostep, which uses patented nerve cuff electrodes and low-noise amplifiers to detect sensory nerve signals generated by skin pressure receptors.

The device is implanted beneath the skin and activates paralyzed muscles in people who have foot drop, a condition in which one leg is paralyzed from a stroke or spinal cord injury. The implant allows them to walk again.

Hoffer, who will join Victhom's scientific advisory board and continue as director of research and development with Neurostream, hopes the Port Coquitlam company will continue to provide biomedical research opportunities and co-op work terms for SFU students. Since its formation, Neurostream has provided a research environment for three graduate theses, five undergraduate theses and five co-op work terms for SFU kinesiology and engineering science students.

“I'm glad about the acquisition because the local climate for fundraising has been difficult,” says Hoffer. “Victhom is a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange with greater access to funding. As well, they are developing artificial limb technologies that can be married beautifully to our neural control technologies, so it's a very exciting prospect for future development of a variety of prosthetic products.”

Victhom, he says, is expected to fund Neurostream product testing as it moves into human clinical trials.

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