Synchrony, backed by Bezos and Gates, tests brain-computer interface

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Philip O’Keefe, one of Syncron’s patients in the Switch clinical trial, using his BCI.

Source: Synchron

In a Brooklyn lab filled with 3D printers and makeshift pickleball courts, employees at brain interface startup Synchron are working on technology designed to transform daily life for people with paralysis.

Synchronous switches are implanted through blood vessels to allow people with no or very limited physical mobility to operate technology such as cursors and smart home devices using their brains. So far the new technique has been used on three patients in America and four in Australia.

Syncron CEO Tom Oxley told CNBC in an interview, “I’ve seen moments between patient and partner, or patient and spouse, where it’s incredibly joyful to regain the ability to be a little more independent than before.” And stronger.” “It helps them connect in ways that we provide.”

Founded in 2012, Synchron is part of the rapidly growing brain-computer interface, or BCI, industry. BCI is a system that interprets brain signals and translates them into commands for external technologies. Perhaps the best-known name in the space is Neuralink, thanks to the high profile of founder Elon Musk, who is also CEO. TeslaSpaceX and Twitter.

But Kasturi isn’t the only tech billionaire betting on the BCI’s eventual transition from radical science experimentation to a booming medical business. In December, Synchron announced a $75 million funding round that included funding from investment firms. Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos.

‘more scalable’

Stentrod™ Endovascular Electrode Array.

Source: Synchron

Syncron’s BCIs are inserted through blood vessels, which Oxley calls “natural highways” to the brain. Synchron’s stent, called a stentrode, is fitted with tiny sensors and delivered to a large vein located next to the motor cortex. The stentrode is attached to an antenna that sits under the skin in the chest and collects raw brain data that is sent to external equipment from the body.

Peter Yu, senior director of neuroscience at Synchron, said that because the device is not inserted directly into brain tissue, the quality of the brain signal is not perfect. But the brain doesn’t like to be touched by foreign objects, Yu said, and the less invasive nature of the procedure makes it more accessible.

“There are about 2,000 interventionists who can do these procedures,” Yu told CNBC. “It’s a bit more scalable than open-brain surgery or burr holes, which only neurosurgeons can do.”

Philip O’Keefe, one of Synchrony’s patients in the SWITCH clinical trial, was the first person in the world to tweet using a BCI device.

Source: Synchron

For patients with severe paralyzing or degenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, Synchron’s technology can help them regain the ability to communicate with friends, family and the outside world, whether by typing, texting or even Be it through access to social media.

Patients can use Synchron’s BCIs to shop online and manage their health and finances, but Oxley said what excites him most is text messaging.

“Losing the ability to text message is incredibly isolating,” Oxley said. “Restoring the ability to send messages to your loved ones is a very emotional restoration of power.”

In December 2021, Oxley handed over his Twitter account to a patient named Philip O’Keefe, who has ALS and struggles to move his hands. About 20 months ago, O’Keefe was implanted with Synchron’s BCI.

“Hello, world! Short tweet. Monumental progress,” O’Keefe tweeted On Oxley’s page, using BCI.

Synchron’s technology has caught the attention of its competitors. According to a Reuters report, Musk approached the company last year to discuss a possible investment. Synchrony declined to comment about the report. Neuralink did not respond to a request for comment.

Neuralink is developing a BCI designed to be inserted directly into brain tissue, and while the company is yet to test its device in humans, Musk has said he hopes to do so this year. Will do

Hagstrom said his company’s funding will help accelerate Synchron’s product development and lead it toward an important clinical trial that will bring the company closer to commercialization.

Alex Morgan, partner at Khosla Ventures, which led the earlier funding round, said that while Syncron’s device may sound like something out of science fiction, it is based on “real science” and is already working in the lives of patients. making a significant difference.

“Synchron is really helping people right now, today,” he said in an interview. “That, to me, is really extraordinary.”

Synchron’s brain-computer interface, the Stentrod™ endovascular electrode array and implantable receiver transmitter unit.

Source: Synchron

In January, the medical journal JAMA Neurology published peer-reviewed, long-term safety results from a trial of Synchron’s BCI system in Australia. The study found that the technology remained safe and that signal quality or performance did not decline over a 12-month period.

“This was a huge revelation for us,” Hagstrom said.

Hagstrom said commercialization is important for all players in the industry.

“I always like to be competitive and therefore being first to market is important to me,” Hagstrom said. “We meet with future patients to talk about their needs and stuff, and so when you see this, and you talk to these families and caregivers, you want to run as fast as you can.” So that you can provide them support in your daily life.

Watch: Mind-reading technology will allow us to control devices with our thoughts

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