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Nexeon CEO On The Brain Chip Targeting Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's Disease And Other 'Cyborg' Technologies

Nexeon CEO On The Brain Chip Targeting Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's Disease And Other 'Cyborg' Technologies

Benzinga recently had the chance to chat with Will Rosellini, a 37-year-old retired pro baseball player who now holds six graduate degrees and currently serves as the CEO of Nexeon MedSystems, a company that has developed a neurostimulation system for the treatment of neurological diseases.

In the first part of this article, the entrepreneur talked about his story, the future of neurotech, the incursions of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB)’s Mark Zukerberg and Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA)’s Elon Musk into the field, and Nexeon’s deal with GlaxoSmithKline plc (ADR) (NYSE: GSK). Below is a look at Nexeon’s products and other brain stimulation technologies in the market.

The Chip

Nexeon is currently producing a deep brain stimulation device, expected to launch in Europe in the first quarter of 2018. The company’s first commercial product basically consists of an implant, similar to a pacemaker, which connects via Bluetooth to an Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad clinical programmer. This allows users to turn the device on and off, steer the current to the places that need it, and even record local field potentials, “which tell them what the brain is doing, and when it is being stimulated or it’s going into a tremor state,” Rosellini explained.

The product uses inductive charging technology, similar to the one developed by Energous Corp (NASDAQ: WATT). So, every other week, the patient has to wear a shoulder harness to get the device charged.

Nexeon’s product will initially target Parkinson’s disease-affected brains. However, the company is also conducting preclinical studies in dysphasia from ALS, "Lou Gehrig’s disease," and recently completed a mouse study for overactive bladder and asthma, with positive results.

“We expect to move into other markets with the device once we launch a successful DBS product,” Rosellini added.

The Path To A Cyborg Existence

Cyborgs are not a thing of the future, but rather, very much of the present. From wheel chairs to reading glasses, mankind has been supplementing bodily functions with machines for years.

As per his view of the world, cell phones are on their way out: Cyborgs are the next big thing.

“We’ll [soon] become cyborgs. Not in a sci-fi, dramatic way, though,” Rosellini said, sharing some interesting, back-of-the-envelope figures for body enhancement procedures in the U.S. Every year American are implanted with:

  • 150,000 defibrillators.
  • 250,000 artificial hips.
  • 250,000 pacemakers.
  • 350,000 breast implants.
  • 500,000 artificial screws, rods, and discs.
  • 500,000 IUDs.
  • 500,000 artificial knees.
  • 2.5 million artificial retinas.

“Depending on how you’re defining cyborg, if you get a coronary stent, you’ve got a piece of metal inside of you. And, those stents are becoming smart with the advent of the Internet of Things. So, the stent can tell you when it is failing,” he added. “There are a half million of those going in every year.”

Artificial retinas go even further. As Rosellini explained, “the eye is an extension of the brain,” directly connected to it. “So, if you have an artificial retina (if the electronics are small enough and good enough) you have already an enormous amount of cyborg eyes that are walking around.” Now, it’s just a matter of when this hardware is actually made “smarter.”

Take Myomo as another example, a company that Benzinga profiled after a biotech symposium at the Nasdaq Marketsite a few months ago. This company makes “lightweight, non-invasive, powered arm braces (orthoses)” that restore mobility in patients suffering from neurological disorders and upper-limb paralysis. As states in their website, the devices sense “a patient’s own neurological signals through non-invasive sensors on the arm,” restoring their ability to use their arms and hands.

A Different Conception Of Technology

Science is still figuring out how the brain works and connects. And, for Rosellini, that gives Nexeon an advantage over software-focused companies investigating neurotechnology. “Silicon Valley guys, the software guys approach problems like engineers, assuming that the equation is fixed. However, in the brain, you’ve got perhaps the largest massively parallel supercomputer that exists, and that is something that can’t be conquered with traditional equations that have closed functions,” he said.

“The other thing that we think is, that the way that software is developed for Facebook assumes that you want to interact with software and you want to see it. Conversely, the way we think about development is, when you’re sick you don’t want to be sick and you don’t want to know anything about it; you want all of the sickness to be hidden. So, we think we understand kind of the development environment; we want to just get the patient back into being normal without them having to interact at all with the software. So, the more we can automate their normalcy, the more valuable the device is going to be.”

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