Israel-based BrainQ is a new neurotech startup hoping to take on brain-computer interface (BCI) companies like Braintree founder Bryan Johnson’s Kernel and Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk’s Neuralink.
It’s not clear yet what Musk’s startup intends to do with the computer chips it plans to put in our heads, but Johnson’s startup says it is focused on developing “technologies to understand and treat neurological diseases in new and exciting ways.”
Whatever sector each company goes for, both plan to insert chips in our brains to connect us to computers — the consequences of which could have dramatic effects on human memory, intelligence, communication and many other areas that could rocket humanity forward, should they work out.
But it’s early days in this industry, including for BrainQ, which plans to use a non-surgically embedded EEG machine instead to gather data and help improve outcomes for stroke and spinal cord patients.
Aside from the brain implant options, BrainQ faces quite a bit of competition in this area. EEG machines are nothing new, not even in the spinal cord injury space. Missouri-based NeuroLutions is working on similar EEG type technology to improve and restore function to paralytics. NeuroPace, a Kleiner-funded startup, is focused on seizures rather than stroke and spinal cord injuries, but is based on the same idea.
BrainQ admits it is also a couple years out from being fully operational here. It still needs to get through clinical human trials and gain Food and Drug Administration approval to sell its services in the U.S.
So far, the company is in the process of conducting two human clinical trials for stroke patients in Israel and a spokesperson for the company, Assaf Lifshitz, says BrainQ will likely try to go to other markets first while waiting on the FDA. BrainQ tells TechCrunch it hopes to be available in the U.S. market by 2020.
Alzheimer’s research is another area TechCrunch was told the company wants to get into soon, and possibly children’s syndromes, as well.
There are a lot of different areas the company could go into with this type of tech but it’s probably safest to bet on a few narrow areas in the beginning, as there is already so much competition in the space in just the U.S. For instance, NeuruLutions’ Ipsihand device is already connecting stroke patients’ brains to a moveable brace they can control with thought and help them move certain body parts again.
And, while Lifshitz believes BrainQ is at least ahead of the market as far as Kernel and Neuralink go, that’s too easy of a comparison to make. EEG is a low-risk entry toward a BCI device gaining FDA approval. All the company needs to show, as many of these companies are either on their way to proving or have proved already, is that the device works. That is far from the same thing as a chip surgically inserted into your head.
BrainQ will continue to forge ahead, of course. Google’s Launchpad Studio chose to work with the startup this last fall, based on what it thought was some interesting machine learning tech. The company also has raised about $3.5 million to date from various Israeli investors and angels, and presented previous clinical findings to the World Congress of Neuro Rehabilitation.