In 2017, Nao J. Gamo was searching for ways to expand her career. After working as an academic researcher at Johns Hopkins she was ready for something new. She had several ideas but starting her own company stuck out the most. Even though creating a company is surrounded by several challenges, Gamo was up for the challenge.
“One day at an event at Hopkins, I just happened to be sitting next to the guy who invented the device that I’m working on now. He’s a professor at Hopkins and he didn’t have the time to start a company. So we teamed up and we’ve been working together ever since,” Gamo explained.
Gamo was in the right place at the right time when the opportunity she had been waiting on fell into her lap. Gamo decided to leave her job as an academic researcher and fully invest herself into starting the company.
Unlike many first time company owners Gamo did not resist leaving her job and starting something new. “I think I was more excited than anything. This is something I’ve been really wanting to try out. So I was more excited than scared,” Gamo said.
Subsequently, Gamo became the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of NeuroSonics Medical, Inc. while the professor at Hopkins stayed on as a team member. “We get along really well. But we also have very complementary strengths and weaknesses. And so it just turned out very, very well,” Gamo said.
Currently NeuroSonics Medical is working to develop a device for minimally invasive neurosurgery. “So we’re developing a miniaturized therapeutic ultrasound device that makes brain surgery a lot less invasive,” Gamo explained.
When Gamo first committed to the project it was only a research project at John Hopkins. “It was still in the idea phase and they had done some simulations to show that in theory, a device like this could work,” Gamo said.
However, since then, Gamo and her team have created three versions of the prototype, and they’ve tested the latest version in vitro setting. “So the next step is to raise funding so that we can do our first preclinical trial,” Gamo said.
Recently, Nao won the PitchCreator Hustle award at the Minority Innovation Weekend 2022 Pitch Competition. Gamo says programs like MIW are extremely beneficial and necessary to help minority businesses reach their goals.
Gamo and her team are still working to receive investment funding but it’s been challenging. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but when you put in a lot of time and effort you’re not necessarily guaranteed investment funding. So that’s still something that I’m trying to move forward with and tackle,” Gamo said.
In addition, “the experience with the Minority Innovation Week was incredibly helpful. Not just the prize money that I won, which was very much appreciated, but also the process where we were matched with a mentor to really work on our investment summary and pitch so that we can be more successful moving forward.”
Gamo has bright plans for the future of NeuroSonics Medical, Inc. The next step is the preclinical study and to begin preparing for sales of the device over the next few years.
“So we’re also planning to do usability and human factors studies with neurosurgical teams. And making sure that we’re doing everything according to the appropriate regulatory standards and we’re aiming for a market launch in 2026,” Gamo said.
Currently there are other devices with similar goals but “we have certain aspects that the other devices don’t cover. So more specifically, our device can bring in a lot more flexibility and be able to factor in the shape and the size of the brain tissue that we destroy and remove. And so we can personalize the procedure a lot more than other devices,” Gamo explained.
Most importantly, the device will be able to be applied to any procedure where doctors are trying to remove brain tissue. But Gamo says they won’t stop there, “so after that, we’re looking into brain tumors and breaking up blood clots. But we can also target other parts of the body like the prostate.”
While the process to get the device to the finish line is long Gamo says it will be worth it. “So our hope is that with a more personalized and much less invasive, much safer approach to neurosurgery, people can have a better quality of life after they get these brain surgeries,” Gamo explained.