Cortigent to Develop Brain Implants for Vision and Stroke Rehab

Three years ago, Second Sight ran out of money. The blind users, helped by its Argus II retinal implant or its next-generation Orion brain implant for some approximation of vision, were left to wonder about the future. IEEE Spectrum documented the journeys of those users trying to find support for their implants, glasses, and wearable computers. While some relied on leftover components, a few had the obsolete devices removed from their heads.

A merger with biotech startup Nano Precision Medical occurred last August, and Second Sight will be spun out into their own company called Cortigent. An upcoming IPO on NASDAQ for $15 million will support the development of the Orion brain implant to repurpose the technology for a new device intended to help people recover mobility after suffering a stroke.

When a blood vessel in a person’s motor cortex bursts, they may lose dexterity in their hands, fingers, and wrists. Electrically stimulating the motor cortex might induce plasticity, which is the natural ability of the brain to create new pathways between its remaining neurons, thus restoring some function.

While an earlier Northstar’s Renova device made it through phase one and phase two clinical trials, it failed to demonstrate a significant benefit over existing physical therapies. The Cortigent device, however, features 60 independent channels, creating a more extensive array, spanning more of the motor cortex and providing target stimulation specifically to the intended location.

In April, Cortigent applied to the U.S. FDA for a Breakthrough Device designation for its stroke recovery technology. This process could speed up the development, assessment, and ultimate approval of the implant.

Cortigent is not abandoning the original idea of cortical stimulation to help some blind people. The key to success in that realm is the type of stimulation done.

A date for Cortigent’s IPO hasn’t been set.

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