Startups

Blackrock Neurotech has acquired Johns Hopkins spinout MindX

The companies' leaders believe that this acquisition can make better brain-computer interface technology more available to patients with neurological conditions.

MindX is working on the future of human-computer interaction.

Photo by Flicker user cblue98

Bethesda, Maryland-based AI/AR and spatial computing software company MindX Corp. recently became part of fellow brain science company Blackrock Neurotech in an effort to pioneer brain-computer interface technology (BCI).

The Salt Lake City, Utah company’s acquisition of MindX brings the latter’s software expertise together with the former’s hardware innovation. The two entities, now combined under Blackrock Neurotech’s umbrella, seek to perfect implantable technology that can restore function in people with paralysis and neurological disorders. The melding of these two companies reflects Blackrock Neurotech’s ongoing growth and commercialization of its various products.

Blackrock Neurotech cofounder and CEO Marcus Gerhardt, whose company was once known as Blackrock Microsystems and has backing from prominent investors like Peter Thiel, highlighted the acquisition’s potential encouragement of such growth and innovation in a statement announcing the transaction.

“By fusing our hardware DNA with their software DNA, we enhance our neural data analysis and enable flexibility and customization for a variety of BCI applications,” Gerhardt said of MindX. “Furthermore, the opportunity to broaden applications through spatial software and AR exponentially advances our commercialization aims.”

MindX, which launched in 2017 to license technology from Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, has worked on US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-funded projects that support the development of transparent AI; That term refers to AI design that checks for biases in the technology and offers users insight into the tech during development and implementation. MindX’s other prior projects included the development of brain-controlled smartglasses and integrations with augmented reality headsets.

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As part of the acquisition, MindX CEO and EpiWatch cofounder Julia Brown will become Blackrock Neurotech’s vice president of software, product and strategy.

“We’re coming up on a new technology frontier where our understanding of the brain is going to change very quickly with new technologies like the products that coming out from MindX and Blackrock,” Brown told Technical.ly.

At least part of this new tech will center around health and improving the lives of those with debilitating physical diseases like ALS.

Blackrock Neurotech has hired 45 employees since the acquisition process began and plans to add over 100 more workers over the next six months. Having recently completed licensing deals for neural decoders with Stanford University and Columbia University, the company is looking at a future Series C.


Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-
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