Brooklyn, New York-based startup Synchron is developing a brain interface technology that has the potential to transform the lives of people with paralysis.
The Synchron Switch, implanted through blood vessels, allows people with limited physical mobility to control technology using their thoughts. The nascent technology has been successfully used on three patients in the U.S. and four in Australia.
Founded in 2012, Synchron is part of the growing brain-computer interface (BCI) industry. Its less invasive approach to implantation sets it apart from competitors as it relies on existing endovascular techniques.
The company's stent, called the Stentrode, is fitted with sensors and placed in the blood vessels near the brain's motor cortex. Connected to an antenna under the skin in the chest, the Stentrode collects brain data and transmits it to external devices. It only takes about two hours to put the device in place.
The breakthrough technology has attracted the attention of notable investors, including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. In 2020, Synchron received the Breakthrough Device designation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), allowing it to conduct trials of its permanently implantable BCI in humans.
The company, which is enrolling patients in an early feasibility trial, aims to demonstrate the safety of its technology. By leveraging a less invasive approach, Synchron believes its procedure can be performed by a broader range of medical professionals.
Retail investors have even begun funding innovative brain technology companies. For example, TruBrain is an innovative startup introducing wearable technology specifically designed to alleviate anxiety, using established FDA-cleared technology. The startup has collectively raised millions from retail investors over the past several years.
Patients using Synchron's BCI can regain the ability to communicate with others through typing, texting an d accessing social media. Restoring the capacity to exchange text messages is particularly impactful - losing this ability can be isolating. Synchron CEO Tom Oxley handed over his Twitter account to a patient with Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS), who became the first person to tweet using a BCI device, signifying monumental progress.
Synchron faces competition from Neuralink, headed by Elon Musk, which aims to directly insert BCIs into brain tissue. Although Neuralink has not yet tested its device on humans, Musk hopes to do so soon. Despite the competition, Synchron's recent financing round will accelerate product development and move the company closer to pivotal clinical trials for commercialization.
The impact of Synchron's technology on patients with severe paralysis or degenerative diseases such as ALS is profound. The ability to regain independence and connect with loved ones has transformative effects. Recent safety results published in JAMA Neurology affirmed the technology's stability and performance over a 12-month period, further establishing Synchron's credibility.
The company's commitment to commercialization is driven by a desire to assist patients in their daily lives. By understanding their needs and witnessing the impact on families and caregivers, Synchron aims to be the first to market with its BCI technology.
Synchron's advancements are grounded in real science and are making a significant difference in the lives of patients. With each breakthrough, the company moves closer to its goal of improving the lives of people with paralysis.