Acquisition brings MindX’s innovative software technology and Blackrock’s industry-leading BCI hardware under one roof
SALT LAKE CITY, April 20, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Blackrock Neurotech (“Blackrock” or “the Company”), a leading implantable brain-computer interface (“BCI”) technology backed by world-renowned investors Peter Thiel and Christian Angermeyer, announced today the acquisition of spatial computing software firm MindX, integrating the Company’s innovative augmented reality (“AR”) and artificial intelligence (“AI”) technology with Blackrock’s BCI hardware. MindX was created in 2017 by serial health-tech entrepreneur Julia Brown and Catalio Capital Management, a multi-strategy life sciences investment firm.
The acquisition bolsters Blackrock’s existing software portfolio and positions 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.
At the forefront of neurotechnology, implantable BCIs are currently being used to restore function in people with paralysis and neurological disorders. Blackrock Neurotech has long been the industry leader in BCI hardware and is responsible for the technology used by 31 of the 35 global human patients, 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 these 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, and in combination with decoded biological data, could unlock more meaningful levels of interaction between patients, their physical environments, and the digital world. This cutting-edge, integrated BCI platform aims to offer patients hope for increased quality of life, independence, and autonomy and deliver on the long-term promise of BCI.
As part of the acquisition, Julia Brown, MindX founder and CEO, and her team will join Blackrock. Julia brings an extensive background in intelligent system design, neurotechnology, and the development of personalized medicine and digital health solutions, as well as her startup experience, which includes launching a series of successful health-tech ventures spun out of Johns Hopkins University.
“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. The Company 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.
Blackrock Neurotech, formerly known as Blackrock Microsystems, is dedicated to the clinical translation of brain-computer interface (BCI) technology. Blackrock, founded in 2008, is the world’s leading platform company for BCI technology and the development of implantable solutions that improve human lives. Blackrock’s precision electrode technology is at the core of many worldwide innovations in BCI, enabling dozens of early users (known as “BCI Pioneers”) to SeeAgain, HearAgain, MoveAgain and more. For more information, visit www.blackrockneurotech.com.
MindX has developed an innovative software platform, MindOS, that utilizes brain-computer interfaces for next-generation spatial computing applications in assistive medical devices and consumer electronics. This platform provides users with a hands-free, “look-and-think” interface for instantaneous access to the world around them using a combination of neurotechnology, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. The company was founded in December 2017 as a spinout from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory with a team of talented engineers devoted to creating new technologies that solve fundamental health and social issues and advancing those technologies from laboratory prototype to real-world products for every-day use.
Karen Blondell / Ethan Raisel
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