Precision Neuroscience, founded by Neuralink alum, raises $41 million

List of Precision Neuroscience

Source: Precision Neuroscience

The cortex of the human brain is made up of six cellular layers, but at Precision Neuroscience, a team of scientists and engineers is working to create a device that resembles a seventh.

The device is called the Layer 7 Cortical Interface, and it is a brain implant that aims to help patients with disabilities use digital devices using only nerve signals. This means that patients with serious degenerative diseases like ALS will regain their ability to communicate with their loved ones by moving pointers, typing and even accessing social media with their minds.

Layer 7 is an electrode array that looks like a piece of scotch tape and is thinner than a human hair, which helps it adapt to the area of ​​the brain without damaging any tissue.

Precision, founded in 2021, is one of many companies in the brain-computer, or BCI, industry. A BCI is a system that interprets brain signals and translates them into external technological commands, and several companies have successfully developed devices with this capability.

Precision was founded by Benjamin Rapoport, who also founded Elon Musk’s BCI company, Neuralink, and Michael Mager. But while Neuralink’s BCI is designed to be implanted directly into the brain tissue, Precision relies on a surgical technique designed to be minimally invasive.

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Stephanie Rider of Precision Neuroscience reviews the company’s microelectrode array

Source: Precision Neuroscience

To install the Layer 7 frame, the surgeon makes a very small incision in the skull and slides in the device like a letter into a letter box. Mager, who is also the CEO of Precision, said the thickness is less than a millimeter – so thin that patients don’t even need to shave their hair to get it fixed.

“I think that’s a huge advantage compared to technologies that require, for example, a craniotomy, to remove a significant part of the skull, which takes a lot of time and has a high risk of infection,” he told CNBC. “I’ve never met a person who wants a skull drilled into their skull.”

The nature of the process allows Precision to easily increase the number of electrodes in the array, which Mager said will eventually allow the device to be used for sensory applications in addition to disabilities.

The process is also reversible if patients decide they no longer want a transplant or don’t want new versions in the future.

“As you start to think about extending this to more patients, the risk-reward of any procedure is an important consideration for anyone considering medical technology,” Mager said. “If your system is irreversible, or potentially dangerous when transplanted, then the commitment you’re making to getting a transplant is too big.”

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Jacob Robinson, a professor of electrical engineering at Rice University and founder of BCI company Motif Neurotech, said Precision is making exciting strides in the minimally invasive BCI space. He said it’s not just patients who have to weigh the risks and benefits of the procedure, but also doctors and insurance companies.

Robinson said doctors have to rate procedures quantitatively and based on existing literature, while insurance companies have to rate their patients’ costs, so minimally invasive surgery makes it easier for all three parties.

“It is a low risk, but it also means that there is an opportunity to treat many people, there is a lot of discovery,” he said.

But because the device isn’t implanted directly into brain tissue, Robinson said the resolution of brain signals won’t be as robust as other BCI devices.

“You get better resolution than you would without the skull, not as high resolution as you get into the tissue,” he said. “But there’s only so much you can do with this kind of medium scale.”

Precision has successfully used its Layer 7 device to determine neural signals in animals, and Mager said he hopes to get FDA approval to test the technology in humans in the coming months.

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The company announced a $41 million Series B funding round on Wednesday, bringing its total to $53 million in less than two years. The funding will allow Precision to hone its product, hire more staff and move toward an FDA regulatory review sooner, a goal Mager said Precision is working toward as soon as possible.

“We don’t want the next 15 years to be like the last 15 years, when this helped a few people. So I think we’re in a hurry,” he said. “What we hear consistently [from patients] that, ‘We want this, and we want it sooner rather than later.’

Mager said he thinks this year is proving to be a “watershed year” for neurotechnology, and that there has been a lot of positive momentum in the BCI area in terms of funding.

Although he said he understands the skepticism about BCIs and technology in general, Mager said he thinks there is potential to make a difference for millions of people suffering from neurological conditions.

“I think the brain, in many ways, is the next frontier of modern medicine,” he said. “The fact that there are so many people with neurological disabilities of some kind, and that we have dirty tools to give them, it’s going to change. It’s changing.”


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