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Thursday, 11 June 2020

New investors for INBRAIN to develop graphene-based implants against brain disorders

by Virginia Greco

INBRAIN Neuroelectronics, a spin-off of the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and ICREA, receives funding from Sabadell Asabys and Alta Life Sciences, as well as ICF and Finaves, which will allow the company to speed up the development of novel graphene-based implants to optimise the treatment of brain disorders, such as Parkinson's and epilepsy.

According to a 2010 study commissioned by the European Brain Council, the cost of brain disorders in Europe alone reaches approximately 800 billion euros a year, with more than one-third of the population affected. The high incidence of brain-related diseases worldwide and their huge social cost call for greater investments in basic research in this field, with the aim of developing new and more efficient therapeutic and diagnostic tools.

INBRAIN Neuroelectronics, a spin-off of the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) and ICREA, was established in 2019 with the mission to develop brain-implants based on graphene technology for application in patients with epilepsy, Parkinson’s and other neuronal diseases. These smart devices, built around an innovative graphene electrode, will decode with high fidelity neural signals from the brain and produce a therapeutic response adapted to the clinical condition of the specific patient.

Additional resources have been recently injected into this endeavour by new investors — in particular Asabys and Alta Life Sciences, through the Sabadell-Asabys funds, followed by the Institut Català de Finances (ICF) and Finaves (fund promoted and managed by IESE Business School) — and other existing shareholders, such as the ICN2 and ICREA themselves. It will allow INBRAIN to accelerate the development of these novel intracranial implants for patients affected by brain disorders.

The company is designing the least invasive and smartest neural interface on the market that, powered by artificial intelligence and the use of Big Data, will have the ability to read and modulate brain activity, detect specific biomarkers and trigger adaptive responses to deliver optimal results in personalised neurological therapies. So far, the technology has been validated in in-vitro and in-vivo biocompatibility and toxicity tests and it has been successfully used to complete studies on small animals. Recently, INBRAIN has begun tests on large animals with the aim of ensuring that these graphene devices are safe, as well as superior to current solutions based on metals such as platinum and iridium. The company also plans to start soon human studies.

INBRAIN was founded, among others, by ICREA Prof. Jose Garrido, leader of the ICN2 Advanced Electronic Materials and Devices Group, Prof. Kostas Kostarelos, leader of the ICN2 Nanomedicine Group, and Dr Anton Guimerà, a researcher at the Spanish National Centre of Microelectronics (IMB-CNM). "Within the framework of the Graphene Flagship, which is a European macroproject”, explains Prof. Garrido, "we were able to develop this novel graphene-based technology that will allow measuring and stimulating neuronal activity in the brain with a resolution much higher than that of current commercial technologies”. During 2019, the incorporation of INBRAIN was a priority project for the ICN2 Business and Innovation Department, which coordinated the technology transfer process and successfully orchestrated the licensing of this high-potential technology.

Minimally invasive electronic therapies represent a revolutionary alternative with less potential cost for health systems,” comments Carolina Aguilar, CEO of INBRAIN and a former global executive at Medtronic in the field of neuro-stimulation. "In our case, the application of new 2D materials such as graphene represents a real opportunity to understand how the brain works in order to optimise and personalise the treatment.