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Updated: June 25, 2020

UMaine med device spinoff Neuright receives $225K tech transfer award

Courtesy / University of Maine From left are UMaine research team members and Neuright Inc. founders Rosemary Smith, Magdalena Blaszkiewicz and Kristy Townsend.

Neuright Inc., a University of Maine biotech spinoff focused on the early diagnosis and treatment of peripheral neuropathy, was awarded $225,000 under the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Technology Transfer program to develop its technology for delivery to market.

Peripheral neuropathy, a condition in which nerve fibers die back from the skin, is estimated to affect more than 20 million people in the U.S. and can cause symptoms including pain, numbness and loss of limb control, according to a news release.

Diabetes is the leading cause of peripheral neuropathy. Up to 70% of the 34 million Americans with diabetes will also have peripheral neuropathy. Wide-ranging, variable symptoms make peripheral neuropathy difficult to diagnose, and while there is no cure, early intervention and treatment can help patients minimize the often-debilitating effects.

Recognizing an opportunity to address these issues, Magdalena Blaszkiewicz, who graduated from UMaine last year with a doctorate in biomedical sciences, and Kristy Townsend, an associate professor of neurobiology, co-founded Neuright in 2018. The startup is working to create and commercialize an affordable medical device that measures nerve conduction and stimulates the regrowth of nerves.

From innovation to development

The company’s founders took advantage of several new and existing programs that help advance university research toward commercialization and are offered by or connected with UMaine’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development.

Neuright’s technology evolved out of Townsend’s National Institutes of Health-funded research into brain communication and how peripheral nerves in fat tissue function. Her lab had discovered that in patients with certain conditions, fat under the skin experiences peripheral neuropathy and is linked to a loss of metabolic control. The ability to measure neuropathy as it descends to deeper tissue layers is one goal of the medical device. 

The device being developed allows measurement of nerve electrical activity as an indication of neuropathology, and is currently being tested in mice. The university recently filed a provisional patent application to protect the technology.


The decision to form a startup and pursue commercialization was a result of the team’s participation in the first cohort of the UMaine Innovation, Research and Technology Accelerator program, called MIRTA, made possible by the University of Maine System Research Reinvestment Fund.

The next step toward commercialization saw Neuright join the UMaine-facilitated Bangor cohort of the statewide Top Gun accelerator, which matches high-growth potential entrepreneurs with experienced mentors. 

Neuright was one of two grand prize winners in 2019, receiving the $25,000 David Shaw prize, thanks to their successful pitch at the showcase event. The company has also received funding from the Maine Technology Institute and was supported by the institute as they prepared their Small Business Technology Transfer application.

Move to UpStart

Neuright currently occupies office space at the UpStart Center for Entrepreneurship in Orono, a facility operated in partnership by the Bangor Target Area Development Corporation and the University of Maine. 

The space is available as part of a co-working arrangement established by the town of Orono in 2019 to encourage local companies and UMaine spinoffs to pursue their development in the region.

“This STTR funding will allow Neuright to continue our important collaboration with UMaine researchers and optimize our technology over the next year,” Blaszkiewicz, the company’s president and CEO, said in the release. “These are critical steps as we look ahead to clinical testing in humans and we are grateful for the ongoing support of our network here in Maine.”  

Neuright’s award will permit the company to hire an employee who will be based at the UpStart Center and will coordinate UMaine’s ongoing research involvement. Other UMaine faculty partnering on this research include lead biomedical engineer Rosemary Smith, neuroscientist Len Kass, and electrical/computer engineers Nuri Emanetoglu and Ali Abedi. A UMaine student will also be hired to assist with device testing under the award.

Once the device is finalized, the Neuright team will apply for Small Business Innovation Research program funding with the National Institutes of Health in order to begin clinical testing in humans.

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