Nesos raises funding for medical device to 'hack' the brain

(Reuters) - San Francisco-based startup Nesos raised $16.5 million on Thursday to fund a medical device that it hopes can train parts of the brain to treat inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

The company’s experimental device, which resembles a pair of wireless earbuds, uses electric fields to make changes, or ‘hack’ the brain, according to Nesos’ Chief Executive Officer Konstantinos Alataris.

The product could also be quicker to reach the market than treatments from the neuroscience startup of Tesla Inc’s CEO Elon Musk, said Ursheet Parikh, a partner at Mayfield Fund, the venture capital firm which led the funding round.

Musk’s startup, Neuralink, in August unveiled a pig named Gertrude that has had a coin-sized implant in its brain for two months, an early step to treat neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, dementia and spinal cord injuries.

“We’re doing something similar (to Neuralink’s device) and also different. We’re trying to change the system, we’re not trying to read and write the system. The major difference is that we’re trying to do it non-invasively,” Alataris told Reuters.

Nesos also reported early clinical data on Thursday that showed a reduction in the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain and damage throughout the body.

The company said it is targeting inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis because of a pathway in the brain that controls the immune system’s responses.

Early clinical tests of two other products to treat neurological and psychiatric conditions are also underway.

The idea of treating serious disease with electrical impulses is not entirely new.

Large-scale electrical devices have been used for years as heart pacemakers. Small devices that electronically stimulate nerves and brain areas to treat hearing loss and Parkinson’s disease have been implanted in humans for decades.

Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel