Viewpoint / Engineering Biology

The Nēsos Journey

A Serial Entrepreneur Builds a NextGen Neurotherapeutics Company to Improve 100s of Millions of Lives


Mayfield’s commitment to Conscious Capital guides us to partner with entrepreneurs who are focused on improving human and planetary health. Today, I am proud to welcome Konstantinos Alataris and his team from Nēsos to the Mayfield family. We salute their efforts to apply neuroscience through a consumer-friendly, non-invasive device to treat diseases of inflammation, which are the primary or significant contributor for over half the deaths in our world today.

Nēsos, using purpose-built earbuds that retrain neural pathways to control inflammation, defines an all-new category of e-mmunotherapeutics. Through its novel approach, Nēsos offers the first non-invasive, drug-free  treatment option for a range of auto-immune and neurological conditions. There has been a lot of excitement surrounding the next generation of neuro-devices like Neuralink which have to be implanted in people. While we applaud those efforts, we feel they will remain limited in application to only small groups of patients. In contrast, Nēsos’ consumer-friendly devices have the power to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of patients within the next 5 years, much like what Livongo is able to do for diabetes.

Existing treatments for auto-immune conditions, such as Humira for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), are the highest revenue drugs of all time. However, these drugs often cause debilitating side effects and leave patients’ immune systems highly compromised and susceptible to infections including COVID-19. Nēsos has demonstrated in pilot human clinical trials that its platform can potentially offer comparable treatment efficacy to drugs like Humira, without the side effect profile. The results of these trials have been presented in key medical conferences and will soon be published in a leading peer-reviewed medical journal.

A Personal Interest Leads to A Serial Entrepreneur

I have always been fascinated with the brain and frustrated by how long it has taken to translate research findings into new treatments. The brain is different from other organs, in that it is highly protected by the blood brain barrier and is in a state of constant evolution, in response to new electrical signals from the senses and nerves. The human brain is also very different from the brains of animals. The result is that for diseases like Alzheimers, clinical trials take 10 years and over $200M, while having a very high failure rate.

Starting a couple of years ago, I had been investigating neuroplasticity targeting therapies and was looking for an entrepreneur who understood the science but could also build a company with a fast iteration business model. The only successful startup which had leveraged the science of how the brain works for therapeutics was Nevro (NYSE:NVRO), where as founder and CEO, Konstantinos led the development and commercialization of Senza, a market-leading, implantable neuromodulator for the treatment of chronic pain. He knew that there was a lot of potential in neuroplasticity control, and was convinced that a mainstream, consumer-led approach, supported by science, would make the broadest impact.  I was delighted by our interactions, as I could see that Konstantinos had the passion and pedigree to build a movement and lead a company. We decided to partner and led the Series A for the company in the spring of 2019.

A Science Breakthrough Gets Industry Acceptance

Inflammation is a vital part of the immune system’s response to injury and infection, but chronic inflammation is at the root of auto-immune, neurological, and neurodegenerative disorders. Current treatment methods require systemic drug delivery, risking adverse side effects from broad immunosuppression.

E-mmunotherapeutics are research-derived, targeted, electrical field sequences to retrain the brain pathways that control inflammation. Nēsos’ e-mmunotherapeutics are delivered by purpose-designed earbuds, leveraging existing nerve pathways (the auricular vagus nerve) to reach the target brain regions.  A mobile app connects to the ear piece and a cloud service tracks the treatment and connects to the patient’s doctor/insurance company.  Nēsos’ breakthrough approach is already being recognized by the industry with the results of their clinical study having just been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Nēsos is also critically supported by close clinical and scientific collaborators from top academic institutions, including Stanford, Vall d’Hebron, Harvard, Mount Sinai, Feinstein Institute, University Of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the University Of California, San Francisco (UCSF), among others.

Experience Counts

As a serial entrepreneur and experienced leader, Konstantinos has made tremendous progress since founding the company. The first product — aimed at treating Rheumatoid Arthritis — recently completed its multicenter, single-arm, 30-patient feasibility clinical trial. The data, which show a meaningful reduction in RA disease severity, were first presented at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology. Additional data will be presented at the upcoming American College of Rheumatology. The platform is also in clinical trials for two other disease conditions. These three products could help treat diseases afflicting more than 25 million patients in the US alone. In addition, Konstantinos has rounded out his team with co-founder Vivek Sharma, who led product at Nevro and brings experience from St. Jude and Boston Scientific; Gary Heit, Chief Scientist, Founder/Director of Functional Neurosurgery at Stanford School of Medicine; and a team of early world-class employees.

There is a joy to being a founding investor in companies, working side-by-side with the team at the inception stage. Some recent examples of engineering biology entrepreneurs we have partnered with include Trevor, Janice, and Lucas with the guidance of Jennifer Doudna at Mammoth Biosciences and Jason, Diego, Leo and Jeff at Endpoint Health. We are excited to begin the next phase of the journey with Konstantinos and the Nēsos team and look forward to working with them to improve hundreds of millions of lives.

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