April 22, 2022 – Blackrock Neurotech, a provider of implantable brain-computer interface (BCI) technology backed by investors Peter Thiel and Christian Angermeyer, has this week announced the acquisition of spatial computing software firm MindX, integrating the company’s augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) technology with Blackrock’s BCI hardware.
MindX was created in 2017 by health-tech entrepreneur Julia Brown and Catalio Capital Management, a multi-strategy life sciences investment firm. As part of the acquisition, Brown and her team will join Blackrock.
Blackrock stated that the acquisition will bolster its existing software portfolio and will position the company to deliver full-stack, integrated BCI products with innovative capabilities. The move comes on the heels of Blackrock’s exclusive neural decoder licensing deals with Stanford University and Columbia University.
Implantable BCIs are currently being used to restore function in people with paralysis and neurological disorders. Blackrock stated that its BCI hardware and technology is being used by 31 of the 35 global human patients using the neurotechnology, with the longest chronic implant still active and lasting more than seven years. These implants have been shown to restore movement, communication, and touch, leading to increased independence and quality of life for patients.
Central to the clinical application of BCIs is the development of user-friendly software that decodes neural activity and translates brain signals into digital commands. With a focus on real-world applications, MindX’s proprietary spatial neurocomputing technology is used to recognize and interpret the movement of objects in physical space. In combination with decoded biological data this could unlock more meaningful levels of interaction between patients, their physical environments, and the digital world, and ultimately lead to an overall improvement in quality of life, independence and autonomy for patients.
“MindX is home to fantastic engineers who are developing groundbreaking, cutting-edge software at the intersection of neurotechnology, AR and AI, and we are particularly pleased to partner in a deeper way with Julia Brown, who has been an insightful innovator and leader in this space,” said Marcus Gerhardt, Blackrock co-founder and CEO. “By fusing our hardware DNA with their software DNA, we enhance our neural data analysis and enable flexibility and customization for a variety of BCI applications. Furthermore, the opportunity to broaden applications through spatial software and AR exponentially advances our commercialization aims.”
Blackrock, which anticipates releasing the first commercial BCI platform, MoveAgain, in early 2023, views the acquisition as a key step in the development of its patient-facing software, the expansion of its technology platform, and the seeding of a core capability in AI. While the initial aim is to help paralyzed patients interact with devices like keyboards, other applications such as restoring vision through human optical prostheses are also being explored. The acquisition is further expected to accelerate existing studies in speech restoration for aphasia patients.
“Blackrock is the company advancing most rapidly toward making this technology commercially available to patients and doing so in a way that aligns with our values in neuroethics and our vision for the potential of BCI,” said Brown. “I can’t think of a better way to get this technology into the hands of patients who need it than by bringing two talented teams together and melding Blackrock hardware with MindX software capabilities.”
Though Blackrock intends to release the first commercial BCI platform in 2023, its technology has been involved in human clinical trials since 2004, according to the company. Blackrock received a Breakthrough Designation from the FDA in 2021, which is expected to enable an expedited FDA review process of the MoveAgain platform so the product can be commercially available to a broader patient population.
The acquisition amount was not disclosed by either company.
Image credit: Blackrock Neurotech