Brainchild Technologies wants to build a pacifier that measures the frequency of your infant’s suck reflex, with the idea that giving parents this information via an app can help them measure their child’s brain development. Neurologists have shown a link between how often a baby sucks and how engaged it is with a person or activity, and so Brainchild wants to take this research and apply it to a wearable for the newborn market.
The startup is one of six that will show off its technology at an investor demo day for the NeuroLaunch accelerator in Atlanta on Feb. 3, in what might be the first accelerator devoted to startups working in the neurosciences. Anish Joseph, who is one of NeuroLaunch’s co-founders, explained that the accelerator came about when he and a fellow biomedical engineer made a list of available neurological resources located in the Georgia Tech campus. When he brought them to a mentor who was trying to understand what was available to him from a neurosciences perspective, his mentor was amazed; he hadn’t heard of half of them.
From there, Joseph and his co-founders took that list and added other local resources outside of Georgia Tech, after which they applied for a grant to create a program that would try to get all of the different neuro-related researchers talking. From there they came up with the idea to help startups take advantage of the wealth of programs and scientists in the area. They received the funding and created their first class of NeuroLaunch, which came to Atlanta in November of last year.
The point of the accelerator is to bring a variety of different perspectives together, because when it comes to the brain, there are many different disciplines, but they remain rather far apart. On one side are psychologist and psychiatrists while on the other are neurologists or biochemists. There are a lot of duplicate efforts and not a lot of crosstalk, but Joseph would like that to change. In an email follow up to our conversation he wrote:
[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”The truth is perception is not always reality especially when it comes to the mind and context does matter. Information in the world definitely exists in silos and it seems to me like we’re approaching a period where for the first time we’re sharing experience instantaneously around the world if we choose to do so. I think neuro-entrepneuriship in particular is very interesting because from my experience most people who end up in this arena aren’t just worried about making money but also want to make a real positive impact in the world because what drives them most of the time is some sort of personal experience that they want to understand and fix for other people.”
To that end NeuroLaunch has brought these six companies together for three months and has created a program with over 90 mentors and provided them with a range of funding from $20,000 to $100,000 depending on the startup. Joseph didn’t share the equity given up for the funds, although in the original application the idea was that startups would get $20,000 in exchange for 7 percent of their equity.
Here are the other companies in this group:
Cognition Medical: The FDA will have to approve the device this company is building, but if it succeeds, victims of a stroke may have a better chance of recovery. The product will be inserted into the blood vessels of the brain and will allow oxygenated blood to flow back into the brain after a stroke in a more gradual manner to reduce the shock experienced by brain cells when oxygen returns too quickly.
Intellimedix: The company is trying to build algorithms that weighs how a person’s specific genetic makeup might interact with the existing chemical compounds in existing and pre-approved drugs to help discover new cures for diseases.
Mint Labs: This Spanish company wants to improve brain imaging and analytics and host such imaging in the cloud so everyone can have access to it.
NeuroCruitment: Finding patients for clinical trials can be a pain, but this company tries to use math to get better candidates within certain patient populations. It also finds them on social media lowering costs and finding people more quickly.
Safe Heart: Like Brainchild, Safe Heart is making hardware, but in this case it is a blood pressure cuff, a pulse oximeter and app that doesn’t contain any batteries. The hardware draws power from your phone. The goal of the device and app is to encourage people to take their vitals and send the information to their doctors so most of the startup’s work is on gamification.