Startup

Elon Musk rival: With $8M funding, this under-30 CEO wants to build next-gen brain implant

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A paralysed patient had the first brain-computer interface implanted into them successfully earlier this year, allowing them to independently speak with someone using a computer. This aim, which was formerly considered science fiction, is now a reality, and other businesses are presently competing to achieve comparable milestones for a range of various uses.

In order to more effectively treat neurological illnesses, the brain-machine interface (BMI) developed by the Boston, MA-based neurotechnology company Axoft has received FDA Breakthrough Device classification. The company raised $8M in funding to support pre-clinical FDA research and scale up prototypes of its “soft as the brain” neural implants.

Ab Initio Capital, Decent Capital, Alumni Ventures, Safar Partners, AIBasis, LiquidMetal VC, Taihill Venture, AMINO Capital, Blindspot Ventures, and Mintz were among the investors in the seed round investment, which was led by The Engine, the venture firm spun out of MIT that invests in early-stage Tough Tech companies. Additionally, the money will be utilized to grow the Axoft staff.

How will FDA Breakthrough help?

The FDA Breakthrough Devices Program participation will expedite the development, evaluation, and review of Axoft technology while maintaining the requirements for premarket approval and clearance for public health protection. The company will roll out its technology gradually with the goal of improving quality of life, starting with diseases with large patient populations that are currently unmet by medical technology as well as conditions like pediatric cerebral palsy and epilepsy where patients receive lifelong treatments.

Researcher Paul Le Floch started the company Axoft in 2021 along with CTO Tianyang Ye, alongside Assistant Professor at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Jia Liu, PhD. with the goal of using supple, malleable materials to create brain implant technology that may both heal neurological disorders like cerebral palsy and facilitate communication.

How did it start?

Axoft was created as a result of Le Floch’s work while a doctoral candidate at Harvard in 2016. At the time, he had developed a fascination for novel classes of soft polymers that might be used as the foundation for bioelectronic systems. He subsequently began working in Jia Liu’s lab, a university assistant professor who specializes in bioelectronics. He and Liu created the prototype for the technology that would serve as the basis for Axoft’s implant during this time, along with another researcher named Tianyang Ye.

One of the most exciting findings they made while experimenting with soft materials was that they did not cause the brain to form scar tissue and had the added benefit of being able to connect to thousands more neurons than current technology, which increased the potential applications of brain implants.

“Technology leaps in the semiconductor industry, development of novel advanced materials, chip design improvements, and progress in minimally invasive surgical approaches have opened opportunities for neurotechnology to be brought into the clinic and really help patients,” said Paul Le Floch, Axoft co-founder and CEO. “The pursuit of elevated quality of life, compounded by the increasing financial burden of neurological disorders due to an aging population are driving the demand for less invasive, more powerful neurological tools.”

Reed Sturtevant, general partner of The Engine, joined Axoft’s board of directors, the company recently disclosed. “Axoft is taking a dramatic step forward from the fundamental brain-computer interface technologies and could be relevant for many conditions. This has the potential to be analogous to a pacemaker for the brain – a minimally invasive device that can listen, sense and stimulate a response. Imagine the impact this will have on neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, seizures and movement disorders.”

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