10 Questions with Neuro-Innovators Cofounder/CEO, Howison Schroeder

10 Questions with Neuro-Innovators Cofounder/CEO, Howison Schroeder

How did you come to do this work and why is it so important to you personally?

First… I am an insatiably curious person and an inveterate analyst. My experiences are far ranging… I am a frustrated scientist with a background in finance, I am a trained economist, I have worked as a geologist and have a degree in history.

My aptitudes and disparate experiences lead me to connections that others might not see and I love doing this. I love finding the un-swept corner. This has given me an opportunity to develop businesses, technologies, and products that can fundamentally change how science is pursued and or how the injured can be helped.

Finally, I want to leave this earth having made a difference, having done some “better than average” good works.

What was your lightbulb moment for Neuro-Innovators?

After 20 years in the business of neuroscience, I believe I have become fairly knowledgeable about both science and business of neurologic medicine. I have shares with my more technical colleagues… There is no science without business, there is no business without science.

At my prior company, Neuro Kinetics, we developed what was by far the best, most sensitive neuro-functional measurement tool. People often insisted that I was biased in my assessment suggesting that the technology was my “baby”. I left Neuro Kinetics not long after it merged with Neurolign Technologies. After leaving, I dug into an extensive analysis of neuro device technologies that competed with Neuro Kinetics, e.g., eye-tracking, embedded electrodes, EEG) and companies to see how they compared. In the end, Neuro Kinetics’ technology remained the state of the art. In the course of this analysis I wrote a white paper on neuroscience investing (see my LinkedIn page or RZ Acquisition website) and uncovered a new opportunity.

The opportunity was one where we could piggyback off of a patent I pushed through at Neuro Kinetics, combining a neuroplastic drug with eye-tracking exercises. We had found that repetitive oculomotor/ eye-tracking tests became exercises leading to improved performance, in other words neuro-plastic responses. My research did not uncover anything similar with another neuro device, so I and one of my co-inventors, Dr. Peter Doyle, filed a new patent combining neuroplastic drugs with an extended array of other neuro-devices.

For the idea to work, the logical follow-up question is… what drug is the best drug for neuroplasticity. As is so often the case in science – the answer is… it depends. We ended up identifying over 150 nutraceutical, psychedelic, and FDA approved drugs that promote some aspect/ Mechanism of Plasticity. Solving the question of which drug has turned us into a drug company and the formation of Neuro-Innovators, LLC.

What is the elevator pitch for Neuro-Innovators?

Traditional American Neuro Drug Development is about one drug, targeting one mechanism, affecting one symptom, impacting one disease. Our brains don’t work that way, so our drugs shouldn’t either. Our brains regulate multiple mechanisms of action at once so let’s engineer therapeutics (drugs) that do the same. Neuro-Innovators is doing this by engineering compound (2 to 3) drugs using only FDA approved drugs. Our first indication targets the rehabilitation of chronic patients (6+ months) with motor disabilities due to stroke, a huge unmet need. We plan be commercial within 5 years.

Talk us through your strategy in building a team around you.

First, Life is too short… work with good people who are smart and professional and fun.

Second, build a diverse team (while staying within a budget… no small challenge!). That diversity for us included:  top neuropharmacologist, clinical drug trial experiences, a business partner with a science background, a practicing clinician, someone who can be wildly creative (sometime maybe too much, but it helps you know you have pushed the edge of the envelope), experience in finance, experience in biotech business strategies, patent expertise.

What has surprised you most about starting Neuro-Innovators?

How hard it has been to raise capital, for a concept and strategy that is pretty uniformly praised as being novel and innovative and addressing a huge unmet need.

Talk us through one of your daily rituals.

I work out of a home office. Up at about 7, exercises or a bike ride, coffee with my friends on CNBC’s Squawk Box, a scan of the paper; ~9am emails; ~10:30am some research on a drug or a patent strategy, reading about new developments in the neurosciences; ~noon Lunch; ~12:30pm Admin, e.g. bills, time with attorney strategy conversations with Mark Cochran (director, COO, seasoned pharma exec, and in house microbiologist); ~2:30 ANOTHER review and update of the investor Deck; ~3:30 investor presentations; ~5 emails and planning for the next day; ~6/6:30… a Beer (or Bourbon)! Dinner ~8:30 back at the computer for follow-ups.

What is a recent challenge you’ve faced as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it? What lesson(s) did you take away from it?

Every day is a new challenge. This investor cannot see how we will get an IRB approved; call Dr Bonato at Harvard and talk this through/ that investor needs more data; go pull together a bibliography/  next investor doesn’t understand 505(b)(2) fast track pathways/ a server change that does not go seamlessly (do they ever!; get out the checkbook, and call the consultant)/ are members of your team losing faith; pull them together as best you can and keep them engaged!

The lessons?

  • Everything takes longer than you imagine
  • Work with good people… work with good people… work with good people
  • Always be ready to learn and adapt the plan and strategy wisely

What does the next year look like for Neuro-Innovators

We are VERY encouraged by what has been happening over the last couple months. Or steadfast commitment to our mission, to getting this clinical study underway, has required a daily dose of faith and steady persistence. Our strategy is well formed, battle tested, and we seem to be connecting to potential investors with an interest in the massive unmet need we are addressing, 505(b)(2) strategy, and the team we have pulled together. They are understanding of we are doing, and are getting excited by it! I think we will be wrapping up our Phase 2(a) PoC clinical trial (at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital) within 12 months, and entertaining offers for our company.

What is a key piece of advice you’ve received that you’d want to share with other founders? 

  1. Work with people you trust, respect and enjoy.
  2. Be persistent and committed, but be adaptable, wisely flexible. 

How can our regional startup community help your efforts? 

First – For all of the Burgh’s embryonic biotech community we need a seed/ angel investor community (followed by larger capital – but is tomorrows problem) that is committed to supporting and making money in this industry. This means a commitment to do the homework, to learn from mistakes and to stay the course. There are a lot of great people, ideas and technologies here… let build a biotech industry presence.

Next – Have the Economic Development Community provide affordable access to wire services… this is the most effective way to allow the world to be aware of the work our many companies are doing and get them access to capital and networks.

Full Article