Researchers Kevin Kilgore and Niloy Bhadra in a lab
Researchers Kevin Kilgore (left) and Niloy Bhadra in the lab

CWRU and Halyard Health partnering to advance non-narcotic pain management

What if eliminating physical pain was a matter of flipping a switch to block it? No drug needed. When it’s time to stop the block, just turn it off.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University hope to eventually treat chronic or acute pain by using energy-based neuromodulation technology. The university’s Technology Transfer Office has signed a sponsored research agreement with Halyard Health Inc., in Alpharetta, Ga., near Atlanta, to collaborate on technology development.

Research Assistant Professor Niloy Bhadra, in Case Western Reserve’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Professor of Orthopedics Kevin Kilgore, in the university’s School of Medicine and at The MetroHealth System, are the co-principal investigators. Both are PhD researchers; Bhadra is also an MD Their concept is to identify the specific nerve sending pain signals to the brain and place an electrode to block the signal without damaging the nerve.

“Work will be done here in Cleveland and Halyard’s lab,” Kilgore said. “We’re really combining the scientific knowledge from both places.”

“Halyard is excited to be working with a leading research institution like Case Western Reserve University to develop non-narcotic, user-controlled pain management technologies,” said Halyard Health’s Eric Schepis, senior principal scientist. “It will help reduce opioid use and their potential side effects.”

Before Halyard’s sponsorship, several years of ongoing research progressed through funding from various sources, including the National Institutes of Health and the Case Coulter Translational Research Partnership at Case Western Reserve.

Kilgore said the medical device could replace pain-modification drugs now commonly used in surgeries. Those drugs take time to be effective and also to wear off, he said. The technology could also improve other kinds of electric nerve blocks, which aren’t as precise.

“Essentially, you could block the nerve without the patient feeling anything other than the sensation of increasing numbness,” Kilgore said. “It also allows the numbness to be reversed if you want to do pain testing.”

“It’s potentially a big advancement in neuromodulation,” said Wayne Hawthorne, Case Western Reserve senior licensing manager. He said the sponsored research arrangement with Halyard is about “getting the technology out to the market faster than if we would do it ourselves.”