Braingate™: Turning Fiction into Fact
With origins in academia and a diversified group of stakeholders, BrainGate™ has evolved from a concept to ongoing clinical trials that have 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 the Cyberkinetics 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, Inc. acquired the rights and assets for the BrainGate™ technology and the intellectual property from Cyberkinetics™. This included numerous trademarks, trade secrets, technology, and over 30 pending and issued patents related to neural interfaces. BrainGate, Inc.’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™ has an infrastructure in place to begin to create a more meaningful way of life for people in need.
Tufts University, together with alumnus Jeff Stibel and his partners, announced the donation of BrainGate, Inc. (“BrainGate”) and its patented technology to the university on September 10, 2020. In doing so Stibel said “Given that BrainGate’s foundational technology is the basis of most, if not all, brain chips presently being developed – medical and commercial – our goal is to create a global hub for cognitive and brain science at the university that can partner with private and public entities for responsible development of this transformative technology.”
The Stibel Dennett Consortium at Tufts is a cognitive research hub to further build upon the BrainGate™ technology and other advances in brain and cognitive sciences. BrainGate™ is a foundational platform for BCI technologies being developed around the world, and Tufts now controls all permissions and rights to its use or commercialization by other organizations.
Access to the cutting-edge technology of BrainGate™ opens up incredible opportunities for engaging in new lines of research, building partnerships with other institutions in this space, and for exploring how Tufts might leverage this technology through private or public partnerships.
Learn more about BrainGate research and development at Tufts:
A number of publications over the last two decades are relevant to BrainGate™. Many of these publications were completed alongside BrainGate, Inc.’s predecessor company Cyberkinetics or using BrainGate™ technology.