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Autism Device Company Gains Venture Funds, Joins Incubator

Brain activity graphic

(Gordon Johnson, Pixabay)

2 Feb. 2023. A new company creating precision light-activated treatments for autism spectrum disorder symptoms is raising more seed funds and joining a start-up incubator program. JelikaLite Corp., a three year-old enterprise in New York, says it’s adding $760,000 in seed funds, as well as taking part in a biotechnology business incubator at Mount Sinai medical center.

JelikaLite is developing a therapy for symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, a collection of related neurological conditions usually diagnosed in children. The disorder is often marked by difficulties in communication and impaired social interaction, along with stereotyped and repetitive behavior patterns. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorder is now identified in 1 in 44 children, across racial and ethnic groups, and found in four times as many boys than girls. Moreover, says CDC, the prevalence of the condition is increasing, from 1 in 150 children in 2000 to 1 in 44 in 2018, the latest data reported.

The company’s technology adapts a technique known as photobiomodulation that sends visible and near-infrared light waves into tissue and cells. Photobiomodulation is being assessed for a number of therapies, such as wound healing and treating inflammation, where energy from light waves penetrates tissue and affects behavior of cells. In Feb. 2019, Science & Enterprise reported on a study funded by a small business grant from National Institutes of Health testing photobiomodulation as a treatment for oral mucositis, a painful adverse effect of cancer chemo and radiation therapy.

In this case, JelikaLite is using photobiomodulation to affect brain cells of children with autism spectrum disorder. The company says its technology, called Cognilum, sends red light waves on the visible and near-infrared spectra non-invasively through the skull. Mitochondria, or the energy centers of neurons in the brain absorb the light, and produce more of the substance adenosine 5-triphosphate or ATP. JelikaLite says autism spectrum disorder is associated with low ATP production, and Cognilum therapy helps address that deficiency, increasing neuron cell energy and tissue repair, with anti-inflammatory effects.

Decline in autism spectrum symptoms

In Apr. 2022, JelikaLite received a Small Business Innovation Research or SBIR grant from National Science Foundation to develop a prototype and test the feasibility of the Cognilum technology. Company founders Katya Sverdlov and Eugenia Steingold, now CEO and chief scientist respectively, reported early results of the feasibility test in Dec. 2022 at the Brain Foundation’s Synchrony 2022 conference. The study assessed the technology with 20 children, age 2 through 7. Each child received 2 treatments per week of 6 to 12 minutes for 10 weeks, with each child receiving at least 16 treatments.

The study team measured autism spectrum disorder symptoms with a standard childhood autism rating scale, and took electroencephalograph or EEG measurements of brain waves. Sverdlov and Steingold report autism spectrum symptoms declined from before to after treatments in the children, with decreases in low-frequency delta waves that can interfere with attention and focus, and increases in high-frequency gamma waves associated with higher-level information processing and integrative thinking.

JelikaLite is raising $760,000 in additional seed financing from the Brain Foundation, also an early company funder, as well as venture investors BioVerge and NY Ventures, and unnamed angel investors. In addition, JelikaLite says it’s participating in Elementa Labs, a biotech and health care business incubator program at Mount Sinai medical center in New York. Elementa Labs is a 12-week virtual training program helping start-ups prepare a comprehensive development plan. As part of the Elementa program, Mount Sinai takes a simple agreement for future equity or SAFE stake in each company, an initial investment with rights to purchase future shares in a later equity round.

“The JelikaLite team is excited to start Elementa Labs,” says Sverdlov in a company statement released through BusinessWire, “as it is a significant milestone for the company. The program will provide guidance for potential commercialization of our technology in the U.S.”

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