IImagine a world where our brain can dictate action without using our limbs. Contemplating this reality is mind-boggling, considering the technology that would be needed to translate neurological signals into motion. It sounds too good to be true in our lifetime, but Salt Lake City-based Blackrock Neurotech begs to disagree.
Praised as the “wthe world’s most advanced brain-computer interface company“, Blackrock Neurotech is the first to provide quadriplegic patients with the ability to control robotic limbs directly from and with the brain – and the first to enable patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to communicate again via auditory spelling directly. controlled by their mind.
After acquiring $10 million in its last funding round in May, Blackrock Neurotech announced the expansion of its brain-computer interface (BCI) platforms into larger clinical studies and innovative laboratory research. . “Blackrock is at the forefront of making human BCI a reality,” says Marcus Gerhardt, co-founder and CEO of Blackrock. “Dozens of human patients are now using our implants and technology to do things directly with their minds that were unimaginable ten years ago. We have spent more than a decade developing our technology with several hundred of the world’s leading research institutions and more than 20 partner clinical centers.
The scope of the problem Blackrock wants to address is vast, says Gerhardt — nearly one in six people suffer from neurological disorders. Health care costs outweigh cancer and cardiovascular disease combined.
“At the basic level, we focus on restoring function to patients, helping them to walk, talk, see and hear again,” says Gerhardt. “But beyond that, we’ve also had patients who have used their devices to make art and play music. These people are able to participate in the things that bring them joy, even when they thought they could never do so again.
Due to Blackrock Neurotech’s breakthrough innovations in this area, 34 human patients worldwide are currently using BCI, and 31 of them are using Blackrock’s technology. Blackrock’s first device was implanted over fifteen years ago, establishing the company’s technology as the go-to platform for leading global teams actively developing BCI applications.
Earlier this year, Blackrock Neurotech announced plans to commercialize a BCI platform in 2022 with the goal of restoring communication function in patients with disabilities caused by ALS, paralysis and other spinal cord injuries. With this revolutionary technology, patients could create text simply by imagining themselves typing or writing by hand.
“In the future, I can see BCI devices becoming more common than pacemakers are today,” says Christian Angermayer, who sits on Blackrock’s board of directors. This is quite a bold statement, given that the global pacemaker market is should grow at a CAGR of 3.1% from 2021 to 2028 to reach approximately $4.34 billion by 2028.
It’s been nearly two full decades since the FDA first approved Blackrock Neurotech’s first implanted electrode array (NeuroPort Array), which sends brain signals to computers for translation. The next iteration of this technology is called MoveAgain, which picks up neurological signals from a paralyzed patient’s brain and then analyzes its intent to control cursors and keyboards, mobile devices, wheelchairs and prosthetics.
While Blackrock is widely regarded as the world leader in this field, some recent competitors are emerging on the scene. Based in Brooklyn Synchronized recently received FDA approval to begin clinical trials of its Stentrode device, which is inserted into the jugular vein and collects neurological signals then used to control a computer mouse and keyboard combo.
Are we about to see science fiction realities creep into our tangible world? With the emergence and adoption of BCI among patients around the world, it certainly seems like there is hope on the horizon.
“Our long-term vision is that our implants will become more widely available for the millions of people who need them, just as pacemakers have become more available for people with heart conditions,” says Gerhardt.