Synchron, a 20-person biotech firm that makes implantable brain-computer interfaces (BCI), has edged out its competitor company Neuralink in getting approval for a trial to implant its chip – Stentrode – on humans from Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Stentrode chip will be studied on six patients later this year to allow paralyzed patients to operate “digital devices like computer cursors with their thoughts,” the company said in a press release.
Unlike Neuralink’s device, Synchron’s device is delivered to the brain through blood vessels in a two-hour procedure similar to how stents are inserted into the heart. Other BCIs (under development currently) involve drilling into the skull and placing needle electrodes directly into brain tissue. According to the company, this can “result in long-term brain inflammation, which can be also challenging for moving into human trials.”
Synchron will begin its trials or an early feasibility study in the next part of this year at New York in a hospital called Mount Sinai. The main aim of this is to seem at the efficacy and safety of its flagship product mentioned as Stentrode motor neuroprosthesis, in patients affected by severe paralysis.
The company is confident that its product will allow the patients to use brain data to “control digital devices and to achieve improvement in its functional independence.” This study is named as COMMAND trial and will be examined on all six patients.
After the approval of the FDA, CEO Thomas Oxley of Synchron said in a press release that,
“It reflects years of safety testing performed in conjunction with FDA. We have worked together to pave a pathway forward, towards the first commercial approval for a permanently implanted [brain-computer interface] for the treatment of paralysis. We are thrilled to finally be launching a U.S. clinical trial this year.”
CEO Oxley also talked about the main mission of Synchron, which is to achieve whole-brain data transfer. He said, “Our prime target is the motor cortex for the treatment of paralysis, which represents a large unfulfilled need for millions of people across the world, a market opportunity of $20 billion.”
As per Bloomberg, Dr. J Mocco, the chief medical officer at Synchron and a professor of neurosurgery at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, the gadget might be available in the next three to five years. And if the trials see success, Synchron might become the first commercially available implantable brain-computer interface beating out its competitor Elon Musk’s Neuralink, which released a video in April showing a monkey named Pager playing the video game Ping Pong after receiving the implant in its brain.