Rio Grande Neurosciences Paves the Way for New Central Nervous System Therapies Thanks to VAF Funding


“You need to have a concise, actionable plan,” he said. “You better practice talking about it.”


The practice paid off, and Rio Grande Neurosciences simply wouldn’t be where it is today without the assistance of the Venture Acceleration Fund (VAF). The Regional Development Corporation (RDC) is the administrator of the VAF program. With a mission to create and retain high-paying jobs and attract revenue to the Northern New Mexico region, the RDC recognized the company’s potential to accomplish both these goals.


The VAF is the only program in Northern New Mexico that provides seed money for early-stage technology startups and growth-oriented business who lack the collateral for debt financing. Funded primarily by Los Alamos National Security (LANS), the VAF has assisted Northern New Mexico businesses at critical junctures since its inception in 2006. The VAF receives additional support from Los Alamos County, Santa Fe County, City of Santa Fe Economic Development and New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

Hagberg said that the company started with one part-time employee and since receiving the funding in 2011, they have grown to six full-time employees and five consultants, who are employed at least half-time.


The Santa Fe-based neurotechnology company’s focus is on developing, acquiring, and licensing non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) therapies used to treat pathologies of the central nervous system.


They’ve now aggregated three of the most promising NIBS Electroceutical technologies, and are now a leader in this newly-developing sector. They conduct basic science, applied research and clinical trials with collaborators both commericals and academic.


The journey wasn’t without hurdles, however. Milestones that needed to be met included not only having and filing a business plan, but getting a clinical protocol written, approved and conducted.  The latter part of the process took longer than expected and the company had to get an 18-month extension, said Hagberg.


Hagberg said that Rio Grande Neurosciences was pointed in the VAF’s direction by Michelle Miller of the High Desert Discovery District (HD3). HD3 is New Mexico’s first startup accelerator. It was founded in 2010 to commercialize and bring to market technology projects and to grow promising, highly-disruptive startups throughout the state.


Rio Grande Neurosciences was one of many companies mentored by Miller.


“We weren’t connected to the business ecosystem, but she was, and she was very instrumental in getting us organized,” Hagberg said.


He said that HD3’s help when they started practicing their initial pitch was invaluable. In order to help them best succeed, they would ask questions that Hagberg didn’t immediately know the answer to, leading to more research and therefore more confidence in the company and the pitch itself.


His advice for other businesses seeking VAF funding? “Make all the mistakes before you do the pitch.”


As for who should apply, Hagberg said, “If you have a problem that Sandia [National Laboratories] or LANL can help you with, you can apply. The process is very simple. If you’re a single company, you can get up to $20,00 if you’re outside of Albuquerque.”