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BrainQ raises $5.3M to treat neurological disorders with the help of AI – TechCrunch

BrainQ, an Israel-based startup that aims to help stroke victims and those with spinal cord injuries treat their injuries with the help of a personalized electromagnetic treatment protocol, today announced that it has raised a $5.3 million funding round on top of the $3.5 million the company previously raised. The company’s investors include Qure Ventures, crowdfunding platform OurCrowd.com, Norma Investments, IT-Farm and a number of angel investors, including Valtech Cardio founder and CEO Amir Gross.

When we last talked to BrainQ earlier this year, the team was working on two human clinical trials for stroke patients in Israel. At that time, the company had closed its first funding round and had also recently started to work with Google’s Launchpad Accelerator, too.

The general idea behind BrainQ is to use the patient’s brainwaves to generate a tailored treatment protocol. No AI company would be complete without data — it’s what drives these algorithms, after all — and the company says it owns one the largest Brain Computer Interface-based EEG databases for motor tasks. It’s that database that allows it to interpret the patient’s brain waves and generate its treatment protocol.

BrainQ EEG reader device

“We are on the verge of a new era where AI- based precision medicine will be used to treat neurodisorders, which do not have a sufficient solution to date,” said BrainQ CEO Yotam Drechsler in today’s announcement. “At BrainQ, we are thrilled by the opportunity to bring this vision to life in the world of neuro-recovery. In a short time, we have already achieved significant results and are looking forward to the opportunity to push our technology and expand our operations, further positioning BrainQ as a leader in the world of BCI-based precision medicine.”

As is typical for Israeli startups, the team’s background is quite impressive and includes former members of the country’s elite intelligence units and academics with a background in AI and neuroscience.

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BrainQ aims to cure stroke and spinal cord injuries through mind-reader tech

Israel-based BrainQ is a new nuerotech startup hoping to take on brain-computer interface (BCI) companies like Braintree founder Bryan Johnson’s Kernel and Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk’s Neuralink.

It’s not clear yet what Musk’s startup intends to do with the computer chips it plans to put in our heads but Johnson’s startup says it is focused on developing “technologies to understand and treat neurological diseases in new and exciting ways.”

Whatever sector each company goes for, both plan to insert chips in our brains to connect us to computers — the consequences of which could have dramatic effects on human memory, intelligence, communication and many other areas that could rocket humanity forward, should they work out.

But it’s early days in this industry, including for BrainQ, which plans to use a non-surgically embedded EEG machine instead to gather data and help improve outcomes for stroke and spinal cord patients.

Aside from the brain implant options, BrainQ faces quite a bit of competition in this area. EEG machines are nothing new, not even in the spinal cord injury space. Missouri-based Neurolutions is working on similar EEG type technology to improve and restore function to paralytics. Neuropace, a Kleiner funded startup, is focused on seizures rather than stroke and spinal cord injuries but is based on the same idea.

BrainQ admits it is also a couple years out from being fully operational here. It still needs to get through clinical human trials and gain Food and Drug Administration approval to sell its services in the U.S.

So far, the company is in the process of conducting two human clinical trials for stroke patients in Israel and a spokesperson for the company Assaf Lifshitz says BrainQ will likely try to go to other markets first while waiting on the FDA. BrainQ tells TechCrunch it hopes to be available in the U.S. market by 2020.

Alzheimer’s research is another area TechCrunch was told the company wants to get into soon, and possibly children’s syndromes as well.

There are a lot of different areas the company could go into with this type of tech but it’s probably safest to bet on a few narrow areas in the beginning as there is already so much competition in the space in just the U.S. For instance, Nuerulutions’ Ipsihand device is already connecting stroke patient’s brains to a moveable brace they can control with thought and help them move certain body parts again.

And, while Lifshitz believes BrainQ is at least ahead of the market as far as Kernel and Nueralink go, that’s too easy of a comparison to make. EEG is a low-risk entry toward a BCI device gaining FDA approval. All the company need to show, as many of these companies are either on their way to proving or have proved already, is that the device works. That is far from the same thing as a chip surgically inserted into your head.

BrainQ will continue to forge ahead, of course. Google’s Launchpad Studio chose to work with the startup this last fall, based on what it thought was some interesting machine learning tech. The company has also raised about $3.5 million to date from various Israeli investors and angels and presented previous clinical findings to the World Congress of Neuro Rehabilitation.

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