LA-based bio science startup Kernel has raised $53 million from investors, including General Catalyst, Khosla Ventures, Eldridge, Manta Ray Ventures, Tiny Blue Dot and more. The funding is the first outside money that Kernel has taken in, though it’s a Series C round because founder and CEO Bryan Johnson has provided $54 million in investment for Kernel to date. Johnson also participated in this latest round alongside external investors.
The funding will go toward further scaling “on-demand” access to its non-invasive technology for recording brain activity, which consists of two main approaches. Kernel has distinguished these as two separate products: Flux, which detects magnetic fields created by the collective activity of neutrons in the brain; and Flow, which measures blood through the brain. These are both key signals that researchers and medical practitioners monitor when working with the brain, but typically they require use of invasive, expensive hardware — or even brain surgery.
Kernel’s goal is to make this much more broadly available, offering access via a “Neuroscience as a Service” (NaaS) model that can provide paying clients access to its brain imaging devices even remotely. Earlier this year, Kernel announced that this platform was available generally to commercial customers.
The technology sounds like sci-fi — but it’s really an attempt to take what has been a relatively closed and prohibitively costly, expert and potentially dangerous-to-its-subjects tech, and make it available as an on-demand capability — in much the same way that many human genome companies have emerged to take advantage of the advances in the speed and availability of human genome sequencing to do the same, for the business and research community.
Johnson’s ambitious long-term goal with the company is to ultimately develop a much deeper understanding in the field of neuroscience.
“If we can quantify thoughts and emotions, conscious and subconscious, a new era of understanding, wellness, and human improvement will emerge,” Johnson writes in a press release.
It’s true that the brain’s inner workings are still largely a mystery to most researchers, especially in terms of how they translate to our cognition, feelings and actions. Kernel’s platform could mean significantly more people studying the science behind the operation of the brain, and provide explanations for areas of neuroscience that still aren’t well understood, just by virtue of making it more accessible to more intelligent people from more disciplines and backgrounds.