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  • By: Graphene Flagship
  • Graphene Flagship
  • Publishing date: 26 March 2021
  • By: Graphene Flagship
  • Graphene Flagship
  • Publishing date: 26 March 2021

Graphene Flagship spin-off INBRAIN raises investment of over €14M

Graphene Flagship spin-off INBRAIN Neuroelectronics develops intelligent graphene-based neural implants for personalised therapies in brain disorders.

This substantial investment exemplifies the growing interest and ever-expanding opportunities to exploit graphene and layered materials in the biomedical domain.

Kari Hjelt
Graphene Flagship Head of Innovation

INBRAIN Neuroelectronics is a spin-off company of Graphene Flagship partners the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) and ICREA, Spain. It was established in 2019, at the intersection between MedTech, DeepTech and Digital Health, with a mission to decode brain signals to devise medical solutions for patients with epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders. The company designs small implantable brain intelligent systems, with the ability to interpret brain signals with unprecedented high fidelity, producing a therapeutic response adapted to the clinical condition of each specific patient.

In June 2020, INBRAIN received a first-seed investment from a syndicate of investors led by Asabys Partners (through Sabadell-Asabys Health Innovation Investment) and Alta Life Sciences, including the Institut Català de Finances (ICF), Finaves (IESE Business School) and BStartUp.

Today, the company announces a €14.35M Series A investment, one of the biggest rounds in the Spanish MedTech industry, co-led by Asabys Partners and Alta Life Sciences, and joined by Vsquared Ventures, a DeepTech-focused early-stage venture capitalist based in Munich; TruVenturo GmbH, Germany’s most successful tech and life science company builders; and CDTI, at the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. The financing round also counts on the follow-on investment from ICF Venture Tech II, investment fund from the ICF.

This investment will allow INBRAIN to bring their technology to humans for the first time, built around an innovative nanoscale graphene electrode, and to consolidate the safety of the material as the potential new standard of care in neurotechnology.

According to a 2010 study commissioned by the European Brain Council, the cost of brain disorders in Europe alone is approximately €800 billion per year, with more than one-third of the population affected. Around 30% of patients with a neuronal disease are resistant to pharmacological treatment and do not have an effective therapy. 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.

Existing brain interfaces are based on metals such as platinum and iridium, which impose significant restrictions in terms of miniaturisation and signal resolution, and therefore cause considerable side effects. For this reason, there is a 50% rejection rate in candidate patients. Graphene Flagship spin-off INBRAIN Neuroelectronics uses a disruptive technology based on graphene which will overcome the current limitations of metal-based neural interfaces. 

INBRAIN Neuroelectronics is bringing a complete technological transformation to the treatment of neurological diseases. Its brain implantable intelligent systems are based on graphene electrodes, which allow miniaturisation to nanoscale fabrication, with the potential to reach single-neuron resolution. The extraordinary properties of graphene  ̶  which is light, biocompatible, flexible and extremely conductive  ̶  are harnessed in much smaller devices that are safer to implant and can be programmed, upgraded and recharged wirelessly.

Driven by artificial intelligence, the implant can learn from the brain of each specific patient and trigger adaptive responses to deliver personalised neurological therapy. In addition, the use of big data management will permit remote monitoring of the device and data processing.

The technology has already been validated in in vitro and in vivo, and biocompatibility and toxicity tests have been successful. Studies on large animals have been completed and the investment will bring the technology to human patients, in collaboration with key neurosurgical and neurological groups in Europe.

Cinzia Spinato, Graphene Flagship Business Developer for Biomedical Applications, says: “Graphene Flagship spin-off INBRAIN is leading the way in the field of graphene-based implantable brain devices, and I hope that this success will raise the interest of new stakeholders and corporates towards the opportunities graphene offers in the healthcare domain. I remember when INBRAIN was born, and it is impressive how they have grown so fast: transforming a laboratory technology into a product – an outstanding milestone. This investment will be fundamental to speed up the development of graphene-based medical devices, which will be tested on patients much earlier than everyone expected.”

Kari Hjelt, Graphene Flagship Head of Innovation, says: “This substantial investment exemplifies the growing interest and ever-expanding opportunities to exploit graphene and layered materials in the biomedical domain. Due to its unique properties, graphene has the potential to transform this application area. The Graphene Flagship has chosen biomedical applications as a focus area for commercialisation, and continues to support efforts to foster new innovations – from research to the factory floor, now and into future.”

INBRAIN is now a Graphene Flagship partner and is directed by Carolina Aguilar, who was the former Medtronic Deep Brain Stimulation European and Global Commercialization Director. The spin-off was founded, among others, by Graphene Flagship researchers in Spain and the UK, including Jose Garrido, researcher at Graphene Flagship partners ICN2 and ICREA; Kostas Kostarelos, researcher at Graphene Flagship partners ICN2 and the University of Manchester and Graphene Flagship Work Package Leader for Biomedical Technologies; and Anton Guimerà, researcher at Graphene Flagship partner IMB-CNM-CSIC. The technology development team consists of neurotechnology experts such as Bert Bakker (CTO) and Michel Decre (Technology Advisor & Board Member) from Philips, and other European successful neurotechnology start-ups.

The INBRAIN team

The INBRAIN Neuroelectronics team.

Author bio

Graphene Flagship
Graphene Flagship

Bringing together 118 academic and industrial partners in 12 research and innovation projects and 1 coordination and support project, the Graphene Flagship initiative will continue to advance Europe’s strategic autonomy in technologies that rely on graphene and other 2D materials. The initiative, which builds on the previous 10-years of the Graphene Flagship, is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme. The 2D-Experimental Pilot Line, addressing the challenges of upscaling 2D material production processes for the semiconductor industry, is another key component of the Graphene Flagship eco-system.