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UVA LVG Announces Latest Seed Fund Investment

University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group Adds Medical Device Company to Growing Seed Fund Portfolio

Charlottesville based company co-founded by UVA alumni earns UVA LVG Seed Fund’s ninth investment

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (June 18, 2019) -- The University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group (UVA LVG) is pleased to announce an investment in Direct Spinal Therapeutics Inc. (DSTI). Headquartered in Charlottesville, DSTI is a medical device company developing a Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) product-platform to enhance treatment for chronic back pain and other spinal cord injuries. The company’s IP2 technology is based on collaborative research and joint intellectual property from the University of Virginia and the University of Iowa. DSTI is the seventh company to join the UVA LVG Seed Fund portfolio, receiving the fund’s ninth investment since its inception.

Investment from the UVA LVG Seed Fund will advance DSTI’s IP2 product development and support regulatory and intellectual property work in advance of a pre-submission meeting with the FDA.

“The expertise and leadership on the DSTI management team offer an unparalleled advantage for the novel IP2 technology,” said Bob Creeden, Managing Director of the UVA LVG Seed Fund & New Ventures. “This investment epitomizes our goal to advance UVA-developed research discoveries and supports a company headquartered in our community, with co-founders who have deep ties to UVA.”

Direct Spinal Therapeutics Inc. was co-founded in 2013 by a team of two leading scientists in engineering and neurosurgery who are champions of translational research and innovation, and an industry expert with decades of experience working with early-stage medical device companies, all of whom are graduates of the University of Virginia.

  • George Gillies, Ph.D. is a UVA research professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering and a prolific inventor who holds more than 30 issued U.S. patents. He earned his Masters and Ph.D. in engineering physics from UVA, received the UVA Edlich-Henderson Inventor of Year Award in 2006, and was most recently named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2018.
  • Dr. Matthew Howard III is the chairman of the University of Iowa’s Department of Neurosurgery and an NIH funded expert in human neurophysiology. He is an experienced med-tech entrepreneur, an inventor holding 25 U.S. issued patents, and a graduate of the UVA School of Medicine.
  • Daniel O’Connell, co-founder and current CEO of DSTI, has 20 years of early-stage venture experience with a particular emphasis on university startups and working with their entrepreneurial founders. He has worked in the early-stage med-tech and Central Nervous System (CNS) technology space as an investor, founder, CEO, advisor, strategic development director, among other roles, and earned his MBA from the UVA Darden School of Business. 

The UVA LVG Seed Fund investment in DSTI follows two deals earlier this year including participation in BrightSpec, Inc.’s Series B financing round, and a follow-on investment in existing portfolio company TearSolutions, Inc. supporting Phase II clinical trials for their novel technology and solution to address the root cause of dry eye disease, Lacripep™.

About University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group

The Licensing & Ventures Group is the University of Virginia’s intellectual property management and innovation commercialization organization with a mission of maximizing the impact of UVA innovation assets. Founded in 1977 as a 501(c)(3) UVA associated organization, UVA LVG receives ~200 invention disclosures, executes ~80 commercial transactions, and launches 5-7 new companies each year.

UVA LVG created the UVA LVG Seed Fund with funding from the UVA Health System and unrestricted private funds to launch and support new ventures emerging from the University portfolio. UVA students, faculty, staff, and those who have completed the i.Lab program are eligible to receive funding and applications are accepted on a rolling basis. To apply and learn more, please visit

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