Synchron bags $10M Series A for brain-machine interface implant

Synchron completed a $10 million Series A round, which will bankroll a first-in-human trial of its implantable device designed to interpret signals from the brain so paralyzed patients can control robotic limbs and exoskeletons.

Neurotechnology Investors led the round, with participation from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), according to a statement.

Synchron is developing the Stentrode device to give paralyzed patients direct brain control of external devices, such as communication aids, as well as robotic limbs and exoskeletons, the company said in the statement.

The device is delivered via catheter, eliminating the need for open surgery, Synchron said. Delivering the implant through the blood vessels may cut the risk for rejection of the device by the brain tissue, which has troubled other approaches in the past.

“We have designed a product to attempt to overcome the greatest challenge facing other neural interfaces: chronic brain tissue scarring,” said Synchron CEO Thomas Oxley, in the statement.

“We aim to provide a safe way for patients with severe paralysis to achieve direct brain control of assistive devices.  Successful completion of this funding round allows us to commence human studies.”

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The trial will evaluate the safety and feasibility of the device to enable patients to control mobility-assist devices. The company plans to start the trial in 2018.

The Stentrode was developed at the University of Melbourne, the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia. The company, SmartStent, was spun out in 2012, before being acquired by San Francisco-based Synchron last year.