Every day, more than 90 Americans die from opioid overdoses—prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetics such as fentanyl. The number has quadrupled since 1999, and the problem has permeated and devastated communities, schools and families. Ohio knows the ravaging effects of this crisis—the state leads the nation in opioid overdose deaths. Considerable efforts are being made to combat this crisis at every level. Sollis Therapeutics in Columbus, Ohio, is answering the call for help by developing non-opioid pain management therapies.
“We’re developing a non-opioid therapy that holds the promise of being highly effective at helping people living with pain, and without any risk of addiction,” said Greg Fiore, MD, CEO of Sollis Therapeutics. “This type of technology is important at any time, but especially now with an opioid epidemic in this country that isn’t unique to any single geographic area or demographic. It’s an issue that affects every community and it’s one that keeps growing. We are becoming more and more aware that any exposure to opioids opens a door for addiction and at Sollis, we are hatching plans to keep those doors shut.”
The name Sollis is a play on the word “solace,” meaning “comfort or relief in a time of distress.” Comfort and relief are what Fiore and Sollis COO Bryan Jones, PhD, aim to provide patients suffering from sciatica, a debilitating disease that affects nearly 40% of people at some point in their life. Sciatica originates from a slipped spinal disc and materializes as intense nerve pain that originates in the lower back and continues down the legs. Sollis’ non-opioid, non-steroid therapy is administered by a single injection into the lower back to treat the pain directly for an extended period.
Sollis Therapeutics was initiated by the Neurotechnology Innovations Translator (NIT), a private entity working in collaboration with The Ohio State University, the Ohio Development Services Agency, and private partners such as Battelle and Cardinal Health, among several others. NIT was formed in 2015 with funding from Ohio Third Frontier and its numerous collaborators, and aims to invest in, develop and commercialize neurotechnology solutions in the frontier of neuroscience. Sollis is the second such company formed by NIT.
With some clinical data already in hand, the company is currently focusing on getting their compound approved for treatment of sciatica, but Fiore and Jones foresee the compound being used for several other types of pain. The two executives see such enormous potential for the neurotech company that they left their homes on the coasts to move to Ohio. The reception they’ve felt has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Bryan’s from San Diego and I’m from Boston. We’re fully committed to this so we are relocating to Columbus. The NIT and Ohio serve as an excellent platform and community for development of this type of technology. What’s most exciting to us is that the feeling’s mutual—it seems that Ohio is just as committed to the cause as we are,” said Fiore. “The state is clearly committed to fighting addiction. I think we’ve both been very impressed by that and by the overall entrepreneurial climate in Ohio. We’re excited to build Sollis here.”