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Brain-Computer Interface Company Raises $75M in New Funds

Stentrode illustration

Stentrode illustration (Synchron Inc.)

Dec. 16, 2022. A developer of an implanted electronic system that captures and transmits thoughts of movement into signals for digital devices is raising $75 million in venture funds. The new financing is the third venture round for Synchron Inc., a six year-old enterprise in Brooklyn, New York that says it so far raised a total of $145 million.

Synchron Inc. is developing a neuroprosthetic system for people who have lost use of their limbs due to injuries or medical conditions. The company’s technology uses a device called a stentrode, an electrode implanted on the surface of the motor cortex of the brain, that sends signals to the spinal cord and rest of the body controlling muscle movements. The stentrode resembles a stent for opening blood vessels, but in this case integrates into the wall of a blood vessel on the surface of the motor cortex. Synchron says the stentrode is directed to a brain blood vessel through the jugular vein rather than a surgical implantation.

Once implanted, the stentrode captures thoughts directing movements as electronic signals. The device forwards those brain signals to a receiver and processor implanted on the chest called brain.io that translates the signals into machine readable code. That code is then sent by brain.io to a companion system with algorithms that interpret and translate the signals into instructions for personal digital devices controlled by the user.

Recruiting for brain-computer interface clinical trial

Synchron’s neuroprosthetic system called the Synchron Switch is the company’s lead product, now in clinical trials. In March 2022, Science & Enterprise reported on findings from an early-stage trial testing safety of the system with four patients in Australia with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. The findings show the stentrode implant does not cause serious adverse effects, and participants used the system to learn how to operate an eye-tracking device with a computer. The company is recruiting participants with four-limb paralysis due to injury or disease for a similar trial in the U.S.

The company says it is extending the stentrode brain-computer interface or BCI technology for generating therapeutic stimulation signals and diagnostics, with those devices and systems still in preclinical stages. “We have an opportunity to deliver a first-in-class commercial BCI,” says Synchron founder and CEO Tom Oxley in a company statement released through BusinessWire. “The problem of paralysis is much larger than people realize; 100 million people worldwide have upper limb impairment.”

Syncron Inc.’s third venture round is raising $75 million led by science and technology venture investor ARCH Venture Partners in Chicago. Taking part in the round are current investors Khosla Ventures, Neurotechnology Investors, METIS, Forepont Capital Partners, ID8 Investments, Shanda Group, and University of Melbourne. Joining the round are new investors Gates Frontier and Bezos Expeditions, investment groups of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos respectively, as well as Reliance Digital Health Limited, Greenoaks, Alumni Ventures, Moore Strategic Ventures, and Project X.

The company expects to use the new funds for advancing the Synchron Switch system, including a larger-scale clinical trial. According to Crunchbase, Synchron’s first venture round raised $10 million in April 2017 from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or Darpa, and Neurotechnology Investors. In June 2021, Synchron raised another $40 million in its second venture round.

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