Brain-machine interface startup Paradromics raises cash to treat disabilities

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Paradromics wants to use its technology to enable people with locked-in syndrome to speak via a computer. (pasja1000)

Paradromics has raised $7 million to fund development of brain-machine interface technology. The seed round comes a year after Paradromics secured up to $18 million from the U.S. Department of Defense.

California-based Paradromics is one of a clutch of companies working on technologies to record and modulate neural activity. Researchers first eavesdropped on electrical discharges from single neurons around a 100 years ago, leading to hopes that machines could enable people with physical disabilities to interact with the outside world in new ways. But the tough challenge of increasing listening and transmission capacities toward whole-brain scales has stymied progress. 

Last summer, the Department of Defense’s DARPA indicated its belief that large-scale neuronal listening may be possible when it committed $65 million to companies working on the problem. Now, the VC community has added to evidence it sees enough near-term potential in brain-machine interfaces to invest in the field.

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Fresh from securing up to $18 million from DARPA, Paradromics has reeled in a $7 million seed round. Arkitekt Ventures and Synergy Ventures led the round with assists from It-Farm, Dolby Ventures, Alpha Edison, Loup Ventures and Fusion Fund. 

Paradromics attracted the financing on the back of its research into very thin wires. Bundling the wires into cords could lessen the bandwidth barrier, resulting in interfaces that transfer large volumes of data between a brain and a machine. 

Initially, Paradromics wants to use the technology to enable people with locked-in syndrome to speak via a computer. Further down the line, the startup has plans to work on blindness, deafness, amputation and other conditions. 

The indications are all characterized by a breakdown between the brain and other parts of the body. With cameras and robotics already providing mechanical alternatives to eyes and limbs, the interface is the missing piece of the puzzle.

Paradromics and its investors think the startup may hold that piece. 

“They are fundamentally changing the way that humans and computers will interact and are opening the door to a whole new field of medicine,” Enke Bashllari, Ph.D., Arkitekt Ventures’ managing director, said in a statement.

“Soon, we will address brain diseases not only via a small molecule or biologics, but via targeted electrical signals. Closed loop systems that enable high bandwidth interfacing of the cortex with the outside world—and vice-versa—will radically improve patients’ lives.”