Neurotech startup Beacon Biosignals scores $27M to bring AI to EEG analysis


Electroencephalography is a decades-old technique for capturing brain activity, data that are used to evaluate brain disorders. Beacon Biosignals is applying artificial intelligence to these tests, and the neurotechnology startup has found a ready market in pharmaceutical companies interested in assessing how their experimental brain therapies are working. Now Beacon Biosignals has something else: $27 million in financing.

The Boston company’s recently announced Series A round of funding was led by General Catalyst.

During an electroencephalogram (EEG) procedure, electrodes are affixed to the patient’s scalp. Over a period of time, typically up to an hour, those electrodes capture electrical signals from the brain. By analyzing those signals, clinicians can learn what’s happening with the brain. This insight can help diagnose brain and sleep disorders. However, analyzing EEGs is labor intensive and interpretation of these tests can vary from one clinician to another. Beacon Biosignals says its technology can overcome the limitations of human analysis of EEGs.

Beacon Biosignals has assembled what it claims is one of the world’s largest clinical EEG databases. By applying its proprietary machine-learning algorithms to the database, the company says it has identified neurobiomarkers—biological indicators that are associated with certain groups of patients, drug activity, and therapeutic efficacy.

In drug research, Beacon Biosignals says its technology can analyze existing EEGs to glean insights about how a drug works, as well as how the drug moves through the body and the body’s biological response to it. The technology can also be used to guide patient selection for clinical trials. Disclosed partner companies that use the Beacon Biosignals technology include Novartis, Praxis Precision Medicines, Cyclerion Therapeutics, and Idorsia. The startup plans to use the new funding to pursue additional pharma and biotech partnerships.

“We have already identified novel electrophysiologic signatures functionally linked to primary cognitive endpoints in Alzheimer’s disease,” Jacob Donoghue, Beacon Biosignals’ co-founder and CEO said in a prepared statement. “We’re further encouraged by the applications of our platform toward heterogenous psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and major depressive disorder.”

Beacon Biosignals was founded two years ago by scientists and engineers from Harvard University and MIT. The startup is one of a growing number of companies bringing AI to the analysis of the data collected from diagnostic technologies and procedures. Iterative Scopes has developed technology that brings artificial intelligence to the analysis of endoscopy. In August, that Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company revealed a $30 million Series A round of funding and a research alliance with Eli Lilly.

Beacon Biosignals said its Series A round brings its funding total to $30 million to date. Other participants in the company’s new financing are Casdin Capital, earlier seed investors, and new angel investors that include Andy Beck, the CEO of PathAI.

Image: Iaremenko, Getty Images

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