SynerFuse Raises $3.6M for Clinical Trial, Device Development
Justin Zenanko, CEO of SynerFuse

SynerFuse Raises $3.6M for Clinical Trial, Device Development

Technology addresses post-surgical lower back pain without addictive opioids
Justin Zenanko, CEO of SynerFuse

Problem: patients who have lower back surgery are often at risk for getting hooked on addictive opioids after their procedure. Potential solution: Minneapolis-based SynerFuse Inc. is developing technology combining spinal fusion hardware with an implantable neuromodulation system, a proactive approach to treating a patient’s pain.

The company just raised $3.6 million in new financing, per a filing last week with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. To date the company has raised $7.3 million. The fresh money will support the company’s clinical, proof-of-concept trial at the University of Minnesota, which is underway, and the development of its device.

While the company has largely been flying under the radar locally, its technology is a potential game-changer to address a huge unmet medical need. Despite still being a small startup company, SynerFuse already has six patents for its technology.

Its leaders bring strong medical industry experience.

CEO Justin Zenanko has a biotechnology background and served as the first CFO for Eagan-based Recombinetics Inc., a gene editing company, where he led fundraising efforts to raise $68 million in financing.

Dr. Greg Molnar, the company’s chief scientific officer and primary inventor of the technology, brings a background at med-tech giant Medtronic where he served as director of neuromodulation research. He also serves as an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Neurology.

SynerFuse’s device treats a patient’s pain with neuromodulation. Rather than trying to manage pain with commonly prescribed opioids, the pain management system is implanted into the patient during back fusion surgery.

“Opioids will only actually treat pain for a couple of days, believe it or not,” said Molnar. He said that SynerFuse aspires to offer a more “holistic” solution.

Current plans envision getting the product to market in mid-2025.

The company has been steering clear of venture capital (VC) backing in order to retain control of the company and its direction

“This is still non-institutional, non-VC funding to this point,” said Molnar. Most of the company’s funding so far has come through friends and family, he said.

“Myself and Greg along with the management and the board are invested in the company personally. Every round we have supported ourselves and we have led every round,” said Zenanko. “We’re putting our money where our mouth is. We’re going on this endeavor with our own skin in the game, which you don’t see very often…We’re at risk just like our investors are at risk.”

Of the latest round, Zenanko said, “We received a significant investment from a family foundation.”

In March, SynerFuse announced a strategic development and manufacturing partnership with Brooklyn Center-based Cirtec Medical Corp., which specializes in design and manufacturing of med-tech products.

And on Tuesday, the company announced two new key additions to its ranks. Jeannine Rivet has signed on as a strategic advisor. Rivet’s resume includes a litany of top roles for Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group including serving as CEO of UnitedHealthcare, CEO of Ingenix, CEO of Optum and executive vice president with UHG.

Twin Cities Business previously honored Rivet in its Outstanding Directors Awards.

At the same time the company announced the addition of Dr. Erika Petersen to its board. Petersen directs the Section of Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Medical Center.