Synchron, a startup company specializing in brain-computer interfaces, is currently developing a piece of technology that will revolutionize the people’s lives who are paralyzed.
Those with no or very limited physical mobility can control technology such as cursors and smart home devices with their minds alone, thanks to a blood vessel-implanted device called the Synchron Switch. The experimental technology has thus far been used to treat three individuals in the United States and four patients in Australia.
Synchron was founded in 2012 and is active in the rapidly expanding brain-computer interface (BCI) market. BCI is a system that can interpret brain signals and convert those interpretations into commands for other devices. Neuralink is one of the most well-known names in the industry due to the high profile of its founder, Elon Musk.
However, Musk is not the only tech billionaire betting on the eventual transformation of BCI from an audacious scientific experiment to a lucrative medical industry. Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos have been proactive in this area, seeking to capitalize on the new trend. Actually, both prominent entrepreneurs participated in the most recent financing round for Synchron despite the fact that the company has yet to generate revenue.
Notably, Synchron is no longer a concept, as the Food and Drug Administration granted it the Breakthrough Device designation in August of 2020. This designation is reserved for medical devices that have the potential to improve treatment for life-threatening or incapacitating diseases. The following year, Synchron made history by becoming the first company to receive an Investigational Device Exemption from the FDA in order to conduct clinical tests on a BCI that could be permanently implanted in humans.
Synchron is now recruiting participants for an early feasibility experiment with the purpose of demonstrating that the technology is safe to use. For the course of the trial, Synchron’s BCI will be surgically implanted into a total of six patients.
Synchron focuses on a less invasive approach that builds on decades of existing endovascular techniques, while many of its competitors are required to implant their BCIs through open-brain surgery.
The BCI developed by Synchron is implanted into the brain by way of the blood vessels. The Stentrode, which is Synchron’s stent, is outfitted with very small sensors, and it is designed to be delivered to the big vein that is located adjacent to the motor cortex. The Stentrode is connected to an antenna that is implanted beneath the skin in the chest. This antenna gathers raw data from the brain and then transmits it to devices that are located outside of the body.
Patients suffering from severe paralysis or illnesses such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, may be able to regain the ability to communicate with the outside world with the assistance of the technology developed by Synchron. This may be accomplished through the use of typing or texting.
Patients have the ability to use Synchron’s BCI to do things like shop online and manage their health and money; however, according to the company’s CEO, Tom Oxley, the feature that seems to delight patients the most is the ability to send and receive text messages.
Competitors of Synchron have taken notice of the company’s cutting-edge technologies. According to a report by Reuters, Musk made contact with the business the previous year in order to discuss the possibility of making an investment.
Although Neuralink has not yet conducted tests of its device on humans, CEO Elon Musk has expressed his optimism that the business would be able to do so during 2023.
According to Synchron’s management, the investment will help speed up product development and move the firm closer to a pivotal clinical trial, which will bring it closer to commercialization.