Cala Health announced this week it raised $50 million in a Series C financing that will fund the market introduction of its wristwatch-like device that delivers nerve stimulation as a remedy for tremors of the hands.
New investors Novartis, Baird Capital, LifeSci Venture Partners and TriVentures participated in the fundraising round, and were joined by all of the company’s previous investors, including Lux Capital, Lightstone Ventures, Action Potential Venture Capital, dRx Capital, GV—the investment arm of Google parent company Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG)—and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, the venture capital arm of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ). The new capital brings Cala Health’s fundraising total to $71.3 million.
The Burlingame, CA-based startup, founded in 2014, received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration in 2018 to market its wearable device for people suffering from a condition called essential tremor. The disorder causes involuntary shaking that usually begins in the hands, and occurs most often in people over 40, according to the Mayo Clinic. The tremors and other unintended movements can also involve other parts of the body, and can interfere with routine activities, such as eating and writing.
A range of drugs have been prescribed as treatments for essential tremor, including anti-seizure medications, tranquilizers, and the beta blockers commonly prescribed for high blood pressure. For severe tremors, there are surgical options such as deep brain stimulation, or a treatment using sound waves called focused ultrasound thalamotomy.
Cala Health’s “wearable neuromodulation’’ product, called Cala Trio, must be prescribed to patients by physicians for use on either the left or right hand.
The device’s design is based on studies indicating that electrical stimulation of certain nerves affects the activity of a “tremor network’’ that encompasses regions of the brain, spinal cord, and thalamus, a set of organs within the brain that are involved in sensory and motor functioning.
The precise mechanism of Cala Health’s device isn’t known, but “targeted stimulation is thought to disrupt pathological tremor signals in the tremor network, which results in meaningful reduction of tremor in the patient’s hand,’’ Cala Health founder and CEO Kate Rosenbluth said in an email exchange with Xconomy. The company is exploring other therapies in neurology, cardiology, and psychiatry.
In March, Cala Health also announced a licensing agreement and collaboration with Partners Healthcare Innovation and its affiliate, Massachusetts General Hospital. The joint project builds on research at Massachusetts General on transcutaneous nerve stimulation and related studies. The collaborators hope that discoveries at Massachusetts General about the connection between the brain and cardiac function will lead to the development of wearable neuromodulation devices to treat chronic diseases.
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