Axoft: Brain Implants for Neurological Diseases
Novel implants built from soft, durable, brain-like polymer material
An estimated one billion people worldwide struggle with a neurological condition such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, contemporary neurotechnology treatments pose many health risks. Current implants are inflexible, increasing the chances of probe breaking, migrating beyond desired brain location, causing inflammation, and recruiting fewer brain cells.
Alumni Ventures portfolio company Axoft has developed novel brain implants using soft, durable, brain-like polymer material that can be utilized for various neurological diseases. Axoft’s nanofabricated brain implants do not harm the central nervous system. They can reside in the body long term, helping target conditions such as seizures and movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
Hitting New (Brain) Waves of Technology
Neurotech implants can capture brain activity data to predict the risk of disease and seizures, or serve as a conduit to activate areas of the brain that are not functioning to help patients walk and control movements. This is a very large market that was valued at $4.6 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 9% through 2028.
Axoft is well positioned to be a force in this market by making implants that record brain signals and contain more electronics while minimizing immune response and not causing adverse effects. For patients undergoing brain surgery, the implantation of electrodes is potentially life changing. However, complications from the implants are common.
Axoft is addressing the shortcomings within this market by developing an ultra-flexible, inflammation-resistant probe with higher bandwidth to elevate the standard of care for patients. The company also has a patent-protected IP for its implants and the nanofabrication process.
What We Liked About Axoft
Competitive Moats & Impactful Timeline: Axoft’s unique product is a result of years of cutting-edge materials research. Given regulatory barriers, competitors who aim to develop similar soft and high bandwidth neural probes will require ample time to catch up to this level of research.
Additionally, Axoft has plans for improved development in the pipeline. The company’s next milestone (between 2023 and 2024) is to produce fully functional brain mapping probes for research laboratories and to have the first FDA-approved device for applications such as EEG / brain mapping and BMI interface for paralyzed patients.
Massive Addressable Market: Neurological disorders affect up to one billion people worldwide, and treatment will improve patients’ quality of life. As populations grow and age — and the prevalence of major disabling neurological disorders steeply increases with age — governments will face increasing demand for treatment, rehabilitation, and support services for neurological disorders.
Visionary & Technical Team: Harvard professor Jia Liu and two former doctoral students, Paul Le Floch and Tianyang Ye, grew Axoft out of research in the professor’s lab at Harvard University. Paul Le Floch, Axoft’s CEO, was Liu’s first graduate student. It was his work in Liu’s lab that eventually led to the breakthroughs from which Axoft’s core technology was created. He has since been named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list. All Co-Founders have deep expertise in their respective areas of subject matter research (soft materials and electronics), which are highly relevant to Axoft’s technology.
How We Are Involved
Castor Ventures (for the MIT community) and The Yard Ventures (for the Harvard community) sponsored Alumni Ventures’ investment in Axoft’s $8 million seed round led by The Engine, the venture firm spun out of MIT that invests in early-stage “tough tech” companies. Alumni Ventures’ Deep Tech Fund and Total Access Fund also invested in the round.
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