Khosla seeds anti-depression brain stimulation device startup

Flow Neuroscience's app and device. (Flow Neuroscience)

Khosla Ventures has seeded a startup that is developing a brain stimulation device to treat patients with depression. The startup, Flow Neuroscience, will use the money to get its first product approved in Europe.

Flow’s big idea is to link a wearable device to a behavioral training program. The device delivers weak currents to the brain to affect neuronal activity. Flow is betting these changes will lift symptoms of depression without also inducing the side effects that occur in patients taking antidepressant drugs. That idea is backed up by third-party trials showing the type of transcranial direct current stimulation used by Flow can improve depression. Many of the studies are small, though. 

The second part of Flow’s treatment package is a mobile app designed to help people further control their depression through eating, sleeping and exercise. Flow has based its app-based behavioral training program on the findings of scientific research into the links between lifestyle and depression.

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Early work on the treatment package took place at the Shenzhen-based HAX Accelerator program. Since graduating from the program, Sweden-based Flow has received a European Union grant. Now, it needs more cash to push its first product to market.

That is where Khosla comes in. The Silicon Valley VC shop joined with SOSV and a Swedish angel investor to put up $1.1 million in seed funding. Flow will use the money to take its lead candidate through the regulatory process in Europe while building out its team.

Khosla thinks Flow has the technology and team to pull off its plans. 

“Scalable technologies that can help treat sufferers in their own homes could be a huge benefit to both quality of life and decreased disability. The Flow Neuroscience team combines a deep knowledge of cutting edge technologies with human design sensibilities and adds to that a great practical experience in mental health,” Khosla’s Alexander Morgan, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement.

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