Synchron is an endovascular stage in the clinical stage (in the blood vessel) brain-computer interface (BCI) company founded in 2016 by Dr Tom Oxley and Professor Nick Opie. It is based in Brooklyn, New York with R&D facilities in Melbourne.
The medtech startup has now raised A$212 million. The new capital is earmarked for accelerated product development, facilitating the start of a pivotal clinical trial and gaining market approval for its BCI as a treatment for paralysis.
prof. Melbourne-based Opie has been working on the idea for more than a decade, developing a BCI platform that avoids the need for open brain surgery by using a minimally invasive procedure.
He created the Synchron Switch BCI, which is implanted through the jugular vein into the blood vessel on the surface of the brain’s motor cortex. It is designed to sense and wirelessly transmit motor intentions from the brain, restoring the ability for severely paralyzed patients to control personal devices with hands-free pointing and clicking.
The Synchron Switch device received the Breakthrough Device designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2020, allowing them to accelerate clinical trials. The first US patient received the implant in July of this year at Mount Sinai in New York. The first Australian received one in 2020 at Royal Melbourne Hospital, and four local residents are now using the implanted device.
Synchron has an ongoing clinical trial in the US assessing its impact on everyday tasks such as texting, emailing, online shopping and telehealth services.
The A$110 million (US$75 million) Series C was led by Chicago VC ARCH Venture Partners, with eponymous funds from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – Gates Frontier and Bezos Expeditions – signing on, along with Reliance Digital Health, Greenoaks, Alumni Ventures, Moore Strategic Ventures and Project X.
Existing lenders Khosla Ventures, NeuroTechnology Investors, METIS, Forepont Capital Partners, ID8 Investments and Shanda Group rejoined. Khosla founder Vinod Khosla introduced Dr. Oxley at Gates.
The Synchron co-founder had a dinner with Bezos in March this year, a meal that ended with the Amazon boss eagerly supporting what many see as a major rival to Elon Musk’s Neuralink. (U.S. federal authorities are is currently investigating allegations of animal cruelty against Neuralink).