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The network effect strikes again… and Opsin Biotherapeutics is born

Two TechFW clients walked into a bar ... oops, wrong story. Two TechFW client companies, DesignPlex Biomedical and Nanoscope Technologies, actually met at a BioNorthTX meeting. The result was a third company: Opsin Biotherapeutics. Robert Benkowski, CEO of DesignPlex Biomedical tells the background story:

Opsin Biotherapeutics is a joint venture that combines the expertise in optogenetic gene therapy from Nanoscope Technologies LLC, with the medical device expertise of DesignPlex Biomedical LLC to create unique products and opioid alternatives for chronic pain management. Mission statement:

Its mission is to offer effective therapies for chronic pain management in an effort to improve quality of life for sufferers.

Market issue it is solving:

There is a chronic pain epidemic. Currently more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, ranging from a variety of conditions that result in opioid prescriptions, including:

Lower back pain - 28%,

Knee - 19%.

Headache/migraine - 16%

Neck - 15%


To reduce the use of opiates for pain management by utilizing our patented Multi-Characteristic Opsin (MCO) and patent-pending Optogenetic Pain Modulator (OPM) technology to access the $60 billion pain market.


In simple terms, we place “solar cells” on those neurons that inhibit pain and then turn those neurons on and off with an implanted LED that the patient can control with a smartphone. These “solar cells” are proteins that respond to light (opsins). They are delivered (transfected) to cells with high specificity using a virus. Once those neurons that inhibit pain are transfected with the opsin, the cells can then be activated by red light, turning off the pain pathway. While this is a gene therapy, the episomal gene does not edit the human genome and avoids those risks associated with human gene editing. The dosing is controlled by a smartphone app, which connects to the implanted microprocessor and light source using secure Bluetooth and allowing patients to regulate their therapy.

How did the two companies meet?

Bob Benkowski of DesignPlex and Samarendra Mohanty of Nanoscope Technologies met at BioNorthTX more than four years ago. DesignPlex had a booth at the members showcase and Samar approached to discuss if DesignPlex might be able to help with some devices Nanoscope was developing.

How did the idea for Opsin Biotherapeutics evolve?

Several meetings were held and many discussions about Nanoscope’s research into using its Multi-Characteristic Opsin (MCO) to address chronic pain. At that time, Nanoscope was using wired LED-fiber, which were acceptable for early studies. DesignPlex would be able to develop a light generation product that could be used for clinical use. After reaching an agreement to start a joint venture, we then needed a company name and corresponding domain name. To reflect the use of opsins as a therapeutic, Opsin Biotherapeutics, Inc. was formed once the domain names, and, were secured.

Talk about this "light source."

With opsin use for chronic pain, a light source is needed (as compared to blindness, which uses the natural light coming into the eye). The therapy for chronic pain is the combination of light source and MCO. We are working together as DesignPlex has prototyped a small, battery-operated and Bluetooth controller light source (called the OPM – optogenetic pain modulator) and Nanoscope Technologies is conducting the research with the combination MCO and OPM. When will they be available for public use and what's the process?

This year, it is planning to conduct the next round of studies in large animals as well as develop the next generation OPM, and meet with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to discuss our clinical indication and verification plan. It hopes to have its first human trial in 2023-24.

Want to learn more? Visit the Opsin Biotherapeutics website.


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