As the newly appointed Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Joseph (Josh) Boggs will lead SPR Therapeutics Inc’s team of scientists and biomedical engineers in developing non-opioid treatments and minimally invasive devices to treat pain. Having spent the past 20 years in research and development, Dr. Boggs has leveraged his experience in science, technology, and business to advance SPR’s platform of patented peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS) products and innovative enhancements. We sat down with Dr. Boggs recently to talk about his new role, the innovative research developments in the last few years and his vision of the future of PNS.
SPR: Dr. Boggs, you’ve been a leader in Research and Development since the inception of SPR. Could you please provide a little insight into your journey with SPR’s R&D team as well as the focus of your new role as Chief Scientific Officer?
Dr. Boggs: I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with SPR Therapeutics, Inc. Founder and CEO Maria Bennett and the core team at SPR for over 15 years, since before SPR was officially launched in 2010. While my titles have evolved and responsibilities have expanded over the years, from Vice President to Senior Vice President and now to CSO, several essential aspects have remained consistent, such as leading SPR’s team of scientists and biomedical engineers in developing minimally-invasive devices and non-opioid treatments to address the needs of patients with pain and their treating physicians.
One of my main goals in leading SPR’s R&D team is to improve patient care by continuing to work with our physician advisors and the clinicians who see and treat patients who may benefit from the SPRINT™ PNS System to better understand their needs and the needs of their patients. We want to take that information back to our internal team and use it to improve our devices and the way our treatments are delivered. This is very much a collaborative effort as we work with clinicians to improve our devices, enhance both the patient and physician experience, and evaluate the performance of the device improvements in clinical trials. We view this as a partnership with the clinical community and expect this to be a continuous cycle as we work to consistently improve and better meet the needs of clinicians and their patients.
Additionally, as part of overseeing the R&D of our devices, I am fortunate to be able to continue as a Principal Investigator for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense (DoD) on multiple peer-reviewed grants and contracts. We’ve received more than $30M in such awards that have supported the development of our devices and the clinical studies designed to evaluate their performance, and confirm we are meeting the intended goals – providing pain relief and improving patients’ lives.
SPR: What are you most excited about as it relates to your role within SPR as well as in the pain management community?
Dr. Boggs: I’m most excited about continuing to advance the dialogue between SPRINT PNS System users and those physicians that are new to SPRINT, or to PNS in general. Additionally, we want to bring more voices to the table, facilitating discussion between the physicians who are treating patients and our scientists and engineers who are evaluating and improving the device to ensure future enhancements are aligned with clinical needs. Finally, I’m eager to make neuromodulation more accessible to the patients who need it. Neuromodulation is a highly effective, yet greatly underutilized treatment. We developed the SPRINT PNS System to foster its use as an early rather than late-stage treatment option for patients that have substantial pain that is not adequately addressed by medications and physical therapy. Many of these patients would prefer to avoid or delay surgery, permanently implanted devices and treatments such as nerve ablation that can cause significant motor weakness.
SPR: What do you feel have been the most important contributions in regard to PNS-related research in the last 2-3 years?
Dr. Boggs: Two of the most important contributions have been the development of devices designed specifically to allow the percutaneous implantation of neurostimulation leads in the periphery and techniques to implant them under ultrasound or fluoroscopic guidance in a way that leverages pain physicians’ existing skill set. This last one especially has helped make it relatively straight forward for pain physicians to learn the approach and bring the benefits of percutaneous PNS to their patients in a safe and effective manner but with a rapid learning curve.
Another important contribution has been the peer-reviewed publications of randomized controlled trials and other clinical studies that have validated the potential for percutaneous PNS as a non-opioid treatment providing sustained pain relief and improvement in patients’ quality of life.
SPR: Where do you feel the industry and PNS is headed in the next 1-3 years? 5 years?
Dr. Boggs: As a non-opioid treatment that can provide significant improvements in patient centric outcomes, percutaneous PNS is likely to grow substantially over the next several years. As more people become familiar with the data and gain experience using percutaneous PNS in their own patient populations, physician interest will continue to increase and this rate of growth will accelerate even more aggressively as patients become more widely aware of PNS as a minimally-invasive, safe and well substantiated treatment option.
For example, we have seen a steady increase in commercial use of the SPRINT PNS System and increasing patient interest in our multiple on-going clinical studies, which makes sense given that there is a well-documented need for non-opioid pain treatments that can be delivered by the treating pain physician without needing to refer the patient for a more expensive and invasive procedure or surgery.
SPR: Of all the research projects in-progress right now with PNS, which do you feel are the most important and why?
Dr. Boggs: While we consistently receive feedback that the SPRINT PNS System is effective and fits well as a first-line neuromodulation intervention, collaboration with physicians and their clinical teams indicates that both device refinements and clinical studies continue to be important. Device improvements are important to make the system more approachable and intuitive for pain physicians that commonly use other interventions but may have never used percutaneous PNS. Similarly, while there are over 40 peer-reviewed publications describing clinical studies of the SPRINT PNS System and the methods to deliver percutaneous PNS, additional clinical studies will be increasingly important as we look to expand our understanding of the different patient sub-groups in which PNS works best and how to deliver the treatment to achieve optimal outcomes.
SPR: What is the role of and importance of research within the pain treatment continuum to you?
Dr. Boggs: Overall, our goal is to fill the unmet needs of patients in a way that aligns with the skill set, training, clinical environment and goals of the physicians that treat them, while reducing the health economic burden of treating patients with disabling pain.
As an example, before SPRINT PNS was available, there was a need in the pain treatment continuum for a non-opioid, first-line intervention that was non-surgical and non-destructive. The SPRINT PNS System was designed to provide that option and create an opportunity to treat patients early in the continuum in a way that may avoid the need for more invasive and expensive options. The role of research is to determine if a system achieves its key design goals and identify areas for future improvement. In our case, we are extremely fortunate to have the support of NIH and DoD in addition to many experienced clinical collaborators in continuing to evaluate and refine our system.
SPR: Anything else that you’d like to add or that you feel is important to note?
Dr. Boggs: Yes, on behalf of our entire R&D team, I’d like to express our gratitude to all those who have been supportive along the way. We recognize that the innovation of PNS is a large collaborative effort, and we look forward to continuing to work alongside our clinician partners to enhance patient outcomes and be responsive to the feedback of our users.