Braingate™: Turning Fiction into Fact
With origins in academia and a diversified set of financial backers through the years, BrainGate™ has evolved from a concept to an ongoing clinical trial that is already demonstrated tremendous progress, with the ultimate goal of improving the lives of those who were previously thought to have limited ability to connect with the outside world.
One of the key early innovations for BrainGate™ came from Dr. Donald Humphrey of Emory University. In the late 90s, Dr. Humphrey invented a method for brain-computer interfaces, which became the basis for a rich and diverse patent. Shortly thereafter, a Brown University spin-off called Cyberkinetics™ was formed to turn a collection of laboratory tests into a regulatory approved set of clinical trials for the first-generation neural interface system: the result was the BrainGate™ Neural Interface System. Based on intellectual property from Emory, Brown, The University of Utah, Columbia, and MIT—as well as Cyberkinetics own patent portfolio—Cyberkinetics created a brain-implantable sensor on a Bionic® computer chip smaller than the size of a penny to monitor brain activity in patients and convert the intention of the user into commands.
In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Cyberkinetics the first of two Investigational Device Exemptions (IDEs) to perform this research. Hospitals in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Illinois were established as clinical sites for the pilot trial and four participants with tetraplegia (decreased ability to use the arms and legs) were enrolled in the study. The end result was much more than a proof of concept. The knowledge from the trials further helped to develop the BrainGate™ device and gave a light of hope to severely impaired individuals seeking to reconnect with their family and friends. These trials set off a barrage of press and consumer interest. The shear notion of controlling objects through thought was now a reality and the world took notice.
In the summer of 2009, BrainGate, Co. acquired the rights and assets for the BrainGate™ technology and intellectual property from Cyberkinetics™. This includes numerous trademarks, trade secrets, technology, and over 30 pending and issued patents related to neural interfaces. BrainGate’s primary purpose is to advance the intellectual property and technology, while moving toward the long-term goal of creating a brain implant that allows people to use their thoughts to control electrical devices.
The collective goal of BrainGate™ is that these technologies will become a powerful means to restore communication, mobility, and independence to people in need. With the global community interwoven through advances in technology and the Internet, BrainGate™ now has an infrastructure in place to begin to create a more meaningful way of life for people in need.