Meet Julia Finkel, MD, Founder of AlgometRx, a resident company of Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS @ Washington, DC and Children’s National Hospital spinout seeking to close the gap in pain assessment and management by providing an objective evaluation of pain in real time. Read on to learn more about Dr. Finkel in this next installment of our In-Depth Conversations with Residents series.
Q: Tell us the story behind your company. What is the personal and scientific inspiration behind the founding (or your work with) this company?
JF: As a pediatric anesthesiologist and pain medicine physician at Children’s National Hospital, I am called upon daily to assess and treat pain for patients who are non-verbal or simply too young to communicate their pain levels. My desire to find a more precise way to diagnose and treat these patients prompted the decade-long research journey that evolved into AlgometRx.
The significant limitations of our current methods of pain management also affect adult patients. Recognizing that many treatment decisions are based on a patient’s pain, AlgometRx was created with the aim to address the gap between pain assessment and management and offer a more precise, personalized approach.
Simply put, pain is a very complex state. Our current measurement system, with patients self-reporting their pain level on a scale of 1-10, doesn’t address that complexity. The limitations of subjective reporting have a meaningful impact on the way pain is treated. One patient’s pain level “4” could be another patient’s “8.” In addition, the current system does little to reveal what type of pain the patient is experiencing, which is key information for treatment decisions. An acute pain, like after breaking a bone, is very different from a neuropathic-type pain such as sciatica, and the treatment of these types of pain should be quite different.
This level of nuance is absent from our current reporting method. Our AlgometRx technology aims to address these issues and more by providing an objective assessment of both pain type and intensity. This information, delivered in real time, can provide a better understanding of the patient’s pain state and inform the best course of treatment.
Q: Why start a healthcare or life sciences company? What personally drives your mission?
JF: As a specialist who treats pain in children, my persistent mission is to deliver the best possible care for their health and wellbeing by alleviating or minimizing their pain to the safest extent possible.
Against the backdrop of my original mission to improve care for pediatric pain patients, I also recognized the broader need to address the national crisis among adults from the over-prescribing of pain medications and the profound impact that has on our society. A more precise measurement of pain type and intensity like AlgometRx aims to provide would support more precise pain treatment and could help to reduce the overprescribing of pain medications. I am driven by the recognition that an objective measurement of pain type and intensity could have such wide-ranging implications for improving patient care.
Our end goal is to provide better, more precise diagnosis and treatment of pain for all patients. Our hope is that patients will no longer have to undergo a trial-and-error approach to treat their pain and that the information provided by our technology allows for the right treatment the first time.
Q: Did you face any obstacles creating your start-up? What, if any, advice would you give to early-stage entrepreneurs? What shaped you into the innovator we see today?
JF: The device that we have today is by no means our first attempt at addressing this problem. I spent years prior to the invention of the AlgometRx Nociometer studying pain and utilizing different technologies in an attempt to objectively measure pain. All of this research provided the foundation for the technology we have today and continues to inform the development of this potentially groundbreaking approach.
My advice to early-stage entrepreneurs is to embrace the journey, including the rough roads and obstacles, and be sure to leverage the lessons you learn. Also, accept help when it is offered and assemble a support network. I have been fortunate through my critical development years to be part of the Children’s National and its Sheikh Zayed Institute, which provided me with resources and a supportive environment where there is a shared passion or innovation in pediatric care.
Q: Why did you want to become a part of Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (“JLABS”)? What are you hoping to achieve as a JLABS @ Washington, DC resident company?
JF: We applied to JLABS because we knew that having access to the best-in-class resources and connections afforded by JLABS would help accelerate our company’s success. We are currently a small team, so being able to tap the knowledge and experience of the entire JLABS and Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) ecosystem is an invaluable asset for us as we continue to grow.
Our first few months at JLABS have been fantastic. The world-class facility has given us access to equipment and resources that would not have been obtainable on our own. Furthermore, the JLABS team has been incredibly helpful in getting us settled in and connecting us to valuable contacts within the J&J community.
For more on AlgometRx, visit their website at https://www.algometrx.com.
Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS @ Washington, DC is open for business. Learn more and join us in pursuit of accelerating innovation in service of our patients: https://jji.jnjinnovation.com/join-jlabs-dc.
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