Blackrock and Pitt work on first at-home BCI system for remote trials

Blackrock and Pitt work on first at-home BCI system for remote trials
Blackrock's Utah Array is a miniature array of electrodes for sensing brain signals

Blackrock Neurotech’s Utah array is used in its brain-computer interface implant to sense brain signals [Photo courtesy of Blackrock]

Blackrock Neurotech and the University of Pittsburgh’s Rehab Neural Engineering Labs (Pitt RNEL) are working together on the first portable brain-computer interface (BCI) to allow patients to participate in research trials from home.

A Blackrock representative said it’s the final step as the company prepares to launch its first commercial product early next year.

Salt Lake City-based Blackrock plans to submit its first commercial BCI device, called MoveAgain, to the FDA this year.

Blackrock wants its BCI platform to be the first one that’s commercially available to people with paralysis. Its implant has been used in patients since 2004 through research studies, with zero FDA-reported serious adverse events since then.

“Through this expansion of our partnership with Pitt, we will be able to connect with and learn from larger patient populations, with the guiding vision of making the technology available to as many patients as possible,” Blackrock co-founder and CEO Marcus Gerhardt said in a news release.

For Pitt RNEL, the partnership offers the opportunity to expand its research with more participants in larger studies.

“Typical experiments require participants to come into our lab facilities on a regular basis, which is a successful model that will continue to be essential in pushing BCI science forward for years to come,” Pitt RNEL investigator Michael Boninger said in the news release “However, home testing has become an important supplement to lab testing whereby we enlist study staff to attend sessions and transport parts of the lab equipment to the participant’s home to conduct testing. With this new initiative, we will develop a miniaturized and streamlined BCI system designed to work in people’s homes, while replicating the potential for complex lab-based experiments.”

Blackrock has been working with ClearPoint Neuro to develop custom navigation solutions including consumables, hardware, software and robotics to streamline and scale implantation while reducing the risk of surgical complications.

Blackrock said it is also trying to develop new, safer materials for less impact on surrounding tissue.