Neuron in need: UMN start-up develops tech for neurological diseases

Anatomi Corp.’s technology could improve research on ALS, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

Patrick Walsh works at McGuire Translational Research Facility on Friday, Sept. 6. 

Nur B. Adam

Patrick Walsh works at McGuire Translational Research Facility on Friday, Sept. 6. 

Jasmine Snow

Technology developed at the University of Minnesota may be the key to advancing studies in chronic neurological diseases like ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. 

Anatomi Corp., a start-up company launched by University’s Technology Commercialization’s Venture Center in May, has developed technology to speed up the production of neurons made from stem cells. Producing these neurons allows researchers to faster test the effects of different treatments more efficiently.

The technology developed by Anatomi Corp. can produce neurons made from stem cells at a rate of around five to 10 times faster than current practices. 

“I thought I could do a little bit better,” said Patrick Walsh, co-founder and CEO of Anatomi Corp. “In the process, I made an important discovery in stem cell biology.” 

Walsh launched Anatomi Corp. alongside co-founder and Chief Operations Officer Vincent Truong. The two were completing graduate degrees at the Carlson School of Management, but have since put their studies on hold to pursue Anatomi Corp.

“I just love advising these startups and watching them grow. It’s super fulfilling,” said Mary MacCarthy, venture program manager with the Venture Center. “One of the keys to advising these startups is how motivated they are and how coachable they are. Patrick and Vince are both super motivated and equally coachable.”

The start-up’s current focus is a peripheral neuron — which receives input like temperature and pain — that would be used to help develop nonaddictive pain-relievers. Walsh and Truong hope to launch the peripheral neuron technology in the next few months before an upcoming conference.

“We’re hoping to launch this product prior [to the conference] so we can get a big following,” Truong said. 

But the two do not plan to stop at the peripheral neuron. Anatomi Corp. also sees potential in using the technology to study Parkinson’s disease. 

“After launching and after getting the grant back in May, we attended these conferences, and speaking with customers allowed us to focus on what they might want,” Walsh said. “We’ve found that a lot of people are still interested in Parkinson’s disease, for example.”

In order to aid in Parkinson’s research, the next neuron Anatomi Corp. is looking to develop technology for is the A9 midbrain dopaminergic neuron.

Another focus for the start-up is cancer, a symptom of which is peripheral neuropathy, or the sensation of pain. Using Anatomi Corp. technology, researchers could better study the side-effects of potential chemotherapeutic drugs.