S2E8 - VerteCore: Wearable Spinal Decompression

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'Meet the Innovators' Season 2, Episode 8: A video interview with Paul Leake, co-founder and CEO, VerteCore Technologies. Mississippi medical device start-up, VerteCore Technologies LLC, has developed VerteCore Lift, a wearable orthopedic device, to innovate the way back pain is managed. The device alleviates nerve root impingement related sciatica and neurogenic intermittent claudication that results from spinal stenosis with mobile, non-surgical decompression.


Meet Paul Leake. Paul is the co-founder and CEO of VerteCore Technologies LLC, a Mississippi-based medical device start-up that aims to change the way back-pain is managed with an advanced wearable orthopedic device, VerteCore Lift. The novel device is designed to afford mobile, non-surgical, decompression that alleviates nerve root impingement related sciatica and neurogenic intermittent claudication that results from spinal stenosis. VerteCore says its decompression technology allows patients to not only manage their pain without the use of opioids and surgery but has been shown to help the resorption of herniated nucleus pulposus material and the rehydration of desiccated, degenerative intervertebral discs.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, approximately 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Even more dismal is that “there's a 74% failure rate for back surgeries and many of those patients end up, unfortunately, addicted to opioids,” says Paul. With a global orthopedic brace and support market of $3.6 billion and the OTC brace market estimated at an additional $1.3 billion, according to Transparency Market Research, VerteCore is primed to not only capture a sizable piece of the market but to do so by providing conservative, wearable alternatives to traditional spinal decompression therapies.

An impossible dilemma marks Paul’s first step toward medical devices. “About 15 years ago I was a specialist in the US Army when I had a training accident. The doctors gave me two choices: an invasive spinal procedure that may or may not work or the option to live with the pain,” explains Paul. “I lived in pain for over 10 years when a friend told me about decompression therapy. It worked great. The problem was that it was cost-prohibitive and super inconvenient.” Luckily for the future of orthopedics both Paul and his eventual co-founder Paul Montalvo, a fellow sufferer of chronic back issues, were treated on the VAX-D or DRX-9000 decompression systems. “Think the medieval rack, just modernized," Paul says. Together, “We wanted to come up with something more convenient, easy-to-use, and portable. So, essentially, we've built a better mousetrap.” Thus, VerteCore Technologies was formed and with the insight gleaned from personal experience, fellow patients, and key healthcare stakeholders, its first decompression device, VerteCore Lift was developed.

We've taken the principle of decompression therapy and condensed it down into a unit that allows for ambulatory treatment.

“We've taken the principle of decompression therapy and condensed it down into a unit that allows for ambulatory treatment, meaning that patients strap the device on and they're able to continue with their normal activities while they're being decompressed,” summarizes Paul. “This is an important aspect of using our device, as walking increases diffusion into your discs to help rehydrate them and allow nutrient and waste exchange.”

The VerteCore Lift, a Class I FDA-cleared wearable, features a large treatment zone (T5-L5) and incorporates biomechanical technology to securely apply traction to the spinal column as it safely decompresses the intervertebral discs, relieving nerve root compression and facilitating the return of blood flow and nutrients to enhance the natural healing process. Impressed by the success of VerteCore’s premier product, a Fortune 500 Company reached out to offer its’ support. Through a collaboration, the soon-to-be named company is assisting VerteCore in the development of second-generation devices that allow clinicians to monitor patient compliance and progress. This will generate data for customized treatment protocols that can be modified in real-time.

Over the past few years, VerteCore Technologies has gained industry support after being named one of the 2017 MedTech Innovator Showcase companies and selected to participate in Texas Medical Center’s accelerator program, TMCx 2018 cohort. The company has also gained fans after several notable wins: the JLABS Innovation Award at AdvaMed’s MedTech Conference and the $500,000 grand prize, including the $10,000 People’s Choice award (the only company to ever win both awards in the competition’s history), at the 2018 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. This year VerteCore is looking for potential investors, committed to improving patient outcomes, as it continues toward commercialization and a cash-flow positive 2020. Ultimately, Paul shares, “getting our device actively in the hands of millions of users is really what we're looking for, because it's going to change people's lives.” From all of us at MedTech Strategist, we offer Paul and the VerteCore Technologies team, congratulations and wish you continued success!


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