As BCI grows in the public consciousness, we're here to share our knowledge about key concepts in developing these devices and their amazing potential to address medical challenges.
Neurotechnology, and specifically brain computer interface (BCI), has been gaining prevalence in the public discourse. Studies demonstrating the capabilities of BCI, once solely found in academic journals, are now frequently covered in mainstream and business publications, alongside think pieces about what BCI could mean for society.
At the same, we’ve witnessed a recent boom in investment in the space; $531M in venture funding was raised for BCI start-ups in 2021 alone. Paradromics announced a $20 million seed fund round led by Prime Movers Lab in July 2021, with funding now totalling $38 in venture funding and 18M in public funding (NIH and DARPA).
Investors plunked $531 million into brain-computing startups in 2021, nearly four times the amount in 2020. (Fortune)
Paradromics is developing a direct data interface (DDI) with the brain. DDI is a class of BCI that provides both the high data rate and the proximity to brain signals required for advanced medical applications. We are intent on leveraging the vast brain data that we can access with our DDI platform to solve difficult neurological and brain-related medical challenges. This mission is in-line with current public thinking on implantable BCI according to recent Pew polling indicating wide acceptance for therapeutic use.
A large share of Americans (77%) say they would favor the use of computer implants in the brain to allow increased movement for people who are paralyzed. Just 8% would oppose this use, while 14% say they aren’t sure. (Pew Research Center)
Our first clinical application is an assistive communication device for patients who’ve lost the physical ability to speak or type–essentially transforming their neural data into text or synthesized speech. However, potential future applications could range from restoring movement or sensation to people with sensory or motor deficits to detecting and treating intractable mental illness.
Paradromics is focused on using neurotechnology to help people regain daily function and connection with the world. For us, the most exciting future to live in is one where sensory deficits, paralysis, and mental health are all considered treatable conditions. We want to build that future.
Although the potential for BCI extends far beyond medicine, a commitment to healthcare outcomes lies at the center of our approach to BCI–both from a technical and business perspective. We are following a traditional surgical model, with neurosurgeons performing the procedures to place the devices into patients. We want to provide the best possible outcome for patients; this is why surgically implanted, direct data interfaces are preferable for data-intensive healthcare applications, as opposed to less invasive alternatives.
Neurosurgery–whether performed by a human or a robot–is not to be taken lightly, so we are focusing on a robust design and biocompatible materials to support long-term implantation for use in a patient’s everyday life. In choosing materials and processes, we have pursued the most proven and most durable options. As with all implantable medical devices, clinicians are involved in setting the requirements for the devices and their surgical implantation, and the FDA provides specific guidance for testing and safety.
As BCI grows in the public consciousness and soon moves into clinical trials, we feel it’s important to share our knowledge about the key concepts in developing these devices and the applications that we foresee for this technology. Look for upcoming NeuroExplainer blogs covering assistive communication, other potential medical applications, and related ethical considerations. We will also publish future blogs on the material and design requirements for these medical devices, along with details of some of the technical advancements that make these devices possible.