Synchron Series Khosla Venturesparkfiercebiotech: Synchronic is a brain-computer interface that helps paralyzed patients text, email, and shop online. The company has just raised $40M Series B led by Khosla Ventures.
Synchron addresses a critical problem for the estimated 10 million people worldwide who are living with paralysis due to spinal cord injuries and diseases like ALS or quadriplegia — how to communicate with friends, family members, doctors, or caregivers. It does so by bypassing the body’s damaged nervous system and directly engaging the brain.
The company was founded in 2017 by Steve Horvath, MD, PhD, Professor of Genomics and Director of the UCLA Center for Neurobehavioral Genomics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He realized that if we could understand how healthy brains encode language, we might be able to teach paralyzed patients to control a communication interface with their thoughts. Through his research, he identified a population of genes in the brain that encode for complex linguistic concepts — both spoken and written.
Synchron’s technology uses a computer algorithm to decode the thoughts and intentions of paralyzed patients. The app turns those thoughts into touch commands that are sent directly from the brain to a specialized device worn on the patient’s face — where those touch commands are converted into speech or text so that communication can be restored.
The company is conducting a clinical trial of Synchron in collaboration with the UCLA Health System. The initial goal is to enable people with paralysis to control devices, including smart phones and tablets, by using their thoughts.
Synchron’s technology will be initially used for communication. But it can also be used to power devices such as wheelchairs, exoskeletons, or other assistive technology devices that are controlled by an individual’s thoughts.
“We don’t believe there are currently any products today that allow paralyzed patients to access the internet or communicate with others,” said Horvath. “With our technology, we can restore communication and independence, allowing people to enjoy a more productive and fulfilling life.”
The funding will also be used to expand Synchronic’s clinical trial of Synchron in collaboration with UCLA Health System and further develop the company’s platform for use by non-communicative patients.
The company has already been operating and receiving feedback from patients since August 2017.
“Using the internet is critical to being able to communicate and live independently, so we are incredibly excited to support Synchronic’s development of a meaningful technology that can improve communication between people with paralysis and their loved ones,” said Khosla Ventures partner Vinod Khosla, who is also a board member of Synchronic.
Synchron was founded by Horvath and is based in Los Angeles. Synchron was incubated in the Khosla Ventures Extreme Science and Technology Accelerator program, which has since closed. Synchronic is being advised by Greenlight Venture Partners and NSF (National Science Foundation) Ventures.
The Khosla Ventures Extreme Science and Technology Accelerator is the only early stage science startup program that provides seed funding of $1 million or less to select science-based startups.