Technology to Diagnose Lower Back Pain
Could one of the most common physical maladies in America,
lower back pain, provide an opportunity for the latest biomedical
device growth story in this region?
That was the question on the table for the OVA at its April
11th lunch forum, as SpineMatrix president and CEO Ben Shappley
presented an overview of the Akron-based company. Chronic lower
back pain is one of the more common physical complaints facing the
health system as the giant Baby Boom cohort begins to enter its
60s. It accounts for 31 million hospital visits annually in the
U.S. and about $145 billion in health care spending. Approximately
1.5 million spine surgeries are conducted on patients each year,
with only about a 60-65% success rate. "That's a very low success
rate," said Shappley.
To increase that rate of success, SpineMatrix has developed a
proprietary, FDA-approved device that non-invasively scans the
patient's neuromuscular system to diagnose underlying problems.
First developed in the mid-'90s by a neurosurgeon in Wooster,
Ohio, Dr. Mark Finneran, with support from the Edison
Biotech incubator, the system has undergone extensive clinical
trials, including at the Cleveland Clinic. The technology is
protected by 10 U.S. and five foreign patents, with a couple more
pending. The machines are leased to spine centers and other
"We have a 95% success rate in determining if you have a disc
pathology. This will save a tremendous amount of money for health
systems and insurers, and will save a lot of needless surgery," he
The company, which expects to begin manufacturing the systems
locally in July, has significant momentum. It raised $9.5 million
in series A, and another $8 million in series B funding, and also
received a long term loan of $900,000 from the state of Ohio. Its
board of advisors includes the lead patent holder of the
The original business plan called for outsourcing the
manufacturing process and selling through manufacturers reps. But
Shappley explained that has since changed. An inside sales force
will be used instead, and beginning this summer, manufacturing and
assembly will take place in Akron, using mostly Ohio-based
vendors. Units will be produced and shipped as-needed. Orders that
come in early in the week can be built and shipped by mid-week,
Shappley explained, noting that adds tremendous value for his
The company experienced modest challenges in recruiting top
talent to Ohio, said Shappley, who himself has more than 25 years
of experience in medical technology management. "Though nothing
you can't overcome. It just takes a little more time and a little
more money." It has encountered perhaps more significant
challenges in awaiting approval by third-party reimbursement
agents. "Lots of insurers refuse to pay for the scan because it's
new," he said, and the company has had to work through that with
an educational process.
For now, at least, SpineMatrix finds itself in an enviable
market position. "Right now," Shappley said, "there's no
competition for determining the physiology of low back pain."
complete PowerPoint presentation.
Webcast and Photos from the Meeting:
Webcast produced by Mike
Gesing, The Impact Group.
Joe Zapis, Tim Biro and Brent Pietrafese.
Gary Schoeniger and David Morgenthaler.
Lloyd Bell, Greg Cowan, and Jim Weisman.
May 9, 2008
President and CEO, Thin Battery Technologies
The Union Club
1211 Euclid Ave.
The Quiet Recovery
Focused on the regional core competencies in bioscience
Beginning in 2002, private investors, led by Early Stage Partners,
acquired intellectual property from Eveready Battery Company
regarding printable carbon-zinc batteries. The patented IP was the
result of over five years of research and development at Eveready.
Thin Battery Technologies, Inc. (TBT) was founded in 2003 to
commercialize and progress the technology. By 2005, "Thin Battery
Technologies" had established robust product from large-scale
production and delivered commercial product to satisfied
customers. These accomplishments allow "Thin Battery Technologies"
to move into the commercial launch of their plan.
Our Vision: Global mega-trends of portability, connectivity,
tracking, safety, environmental protection, automation and
do-it-yourself healthcare are driving innovations in flat,
flexible, functional devices like RFID (radio frequency
identification devices), data loggers, drug delivery patches,
sensors and displays. These new devices, sometimes referred to as
"smart active labels," hold urgent need for safe and form function
Gary Johnson, President and CEO, has previous experience in
leading Sawyer Research Products, Inc., a Cleveland-based
international technology company, to a market-leading position. He
has also led new opportunities in executive, director and advisory
roles with early stage technologies ventures.
Gary holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Purdue
University and a MS in Industrial Administration from the Krannert
Graduate School of Management at Purdue University.
complete details and
StaffKnex Offers Web-Based Staff
StaffKnex is an application services provider that
offers web-based tools for scheduling and managing staff in
medical facilities such as nursing homes, hospices, assisted
living centers and hospitals. "It gives them the ability to
control their business, and lets them focus more on quality of
care," said Gene Groys, president of StaffKnex.
StaffKnex is seeking $500,000 to support growth in its
operations over the next 12-18 months.
For more information, contact Gene Groys, at
216-926-4244, or go to
See complete presentation (PDF).
The 5-Minute Forum is an opportunity for business owners to
make a 5-minute presentation at our monthly luncheon meeting for
raising capital, identifying customers, establishing distribution,
or recruiting management. See