Kernel Raises $53M in Quest to Hack Humans with Brain-Reading Machines
Rachel Uranga covers the intersection of business, technology and culture. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.
Kernel, a bioscience company aiming to make the inner workings of the human brain easy to read, announced Thursday it's raised $53 million in a Series C round led by General Catalyst.
Other investors include Khosla Ventures, Eldridge, Manta Ray Ventures, Tiny Blue Dot and Kernel founder and CEO Bryan Johnson, who himself has invested $54 million in the company to date.
Kernel founder and CEO Bryan Johnson has invested $54 million in the company.
Founded by Johnson, Kernel makes technology used to record brain waves and other mind functions inexpensive, opening up the frontier of the human mind to researchers and scientists that previously didn't have access. The company calls the interface with the brain "neuroscience as a service" or NaaS, a take on tech companies selling SaaS (software as a service) technology.
It has already conducted experiments that allow individuals to spell out words using brain signals alone.
"We live in a data-illuminated world, but the user manuals for our brains have no diagnostic or useful numbers, leaving us with no option but to describe and characterize cognition using hunches." Johnson said in an announcement. "Imagine a cardiologist asking you how your heart is doing based upon your hunches, without cholesterol or blood pressure."
"If we can quantify thoughts and emotions, conscious and subconscious, a new era of understanding, wellness and human improvement will emerge," Johnson concluded.
Johnson likens the endeavor to the genome project that broke open new frontier in biological study and set the table for new discoveries.
"Mainframes became PCs and then smartphones. The $1B genome became the $1,000 genome. The brain and mind are next," Johnson said in a company statement.
Kernel is among a small list of companies trying to hack the human brain, once an idea isolated to science fiction. Last year, Space X founder Elon Musk unveiled Neuralink's design to the public. The secretive company is developing brain-machine interfaces that it hopes will eventually give paraplegics and others more control. He announced on Thursday, he would give an update on the company Aug. 28.
Progress update August 28
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2020
Kernel is already generating revenue and said earlier this year it would be available for commercial use. It was featured in I Am Human, a 2020 documentary about scientists trying to unlock the human brain.
Kernel hopes its brain-recording device will spur a new era of discovery in neuroscience, psychiatry and health with an eye toward breakthroughs in the biomakers for cognition and brain health and improving artificial intelligence for difficult tasks such as computer vision.
The funds will be directed towards further technology development and customer success.
"The vision fueling Kernel is one of the most audacious imaginable." said Quentin Clark, general partner, General Catalyst in a company announcement. "Kernel's engineering accomplishments have the potential to enable more neuroscience progress in the next few years than has been accomplished in the last few decades."
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Hilary Bricken, Partner of Harris Bricken
Hilary Bricken, Partner of Harris Bricken<p>Since joining Harris Bricken in 2010, Hilary has earned a reputation as an exceptional and fearless business law attorney. Hilary's clients—start-ups, entrepreneurs, and companies in all stages of development—value her bold approach to business strategy. Hilary also appears before city councils and community forums, where she advocates tirelessly for her clients.</p><p>In 2017, the American Bar Association (ABA) named Hilary one of the <a href="https://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/aba-news-archives/2017/07/aba_young_lawyersdi/" target="_blank">top 40 young lawyers</a> nationwide and before that <a href="http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/news/2013/12/14/newsmakers-of-2013-deal-makers.html" target="_blank">The Puget Sound Business Journal</a> named her as one of only seven deal makers of the year. She was by far the youngest and the only private practice attorney to garner this honor. Hilary was also named one of "<a href="http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/print-edition/2015/09/11/2015-40-under-40-hilary-bricken.html" target="_blank">40 Under 40</a>" leading businesspeople by the PS Business Journal. In every year since 2014, Hilary has been chosen as a "Rising Star" lawyer by Super Lawyer's magazine.</p><p>Major media outlets like the New York Times, VICE, the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Business Insider, CNN, Rolling Stone, Forbes, MSNBC, and Bloomberg all have turned to Hilary for her on-the-ground perspective on cannabis laws. Hilary's <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M4Fse1Ioaw" target="_blank">Tedx talk</a> on "big cannabis" (see below) has garnered more than 50,000 views and she also authors a weekly column for <a href="https://abovethelaw.com/tag/hilary-bricken/" target="_blank">Above the Law </a>on marijuana policy and regulation.</p>
Tanya Hoke, Managing Director of Galen Diligence
Tanya Hoke, Managing Director of Galen Diligence<p>Tanya has more than a dozen years of experience managing investigative due diligence for clients in industries ranging from pharmaceuticals and manufacturing to financial services and consulting. She has been advising investors in the cannabis industry since 2015, and focuses on issues relating to fraud, money-laundering, compliance, and corporate governance. Tanya is a Certified Fraud Examiner, a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist, and a licensed private investigator. She has served on the National Cannabis Industry Association's Banking & Financial Services Committee and the State Regulations Committee. Tanya received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Swarthmore College and a Master of International Business degree from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, where she serves on the MIB Alumni Advisory Board.</p>
Brad Rowe, Director of Compliance, Operations and Regulations Analyst of Rowe Policy Media
Brad Rowe, Director of Compliance, Operations and Regulations Analyst of Rowe Policy Media<p>Brad has designed, implemented and delivered a dozen public policy research projects over the last six years through his time running BOTEC Analysis, at UCLA and with Avenu/MuniServices Cannabis Compliance and Support Services and Rowe Policy + Media. Brad is Lecturer of Public Policy at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and recently started teaching Cannabis Policy and Society, the first of its kind in the country. </p><p>He serves as Advisor to the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, coordinating the Criminal and JuvenileJustice Research team and the California Cannabis Data Collection Project. He sat on the CommunityAdvisory Committee for the Los Angeles County Department of Health's impact assessment on cannabis. </p><p>In 2020 Brad has taken on the cannabis "dosing problem". To help naive and legacy consumers dose new cannabis products predictably and reliably. The HowHi App Data Project provides evidence based insights into the Quality, Duration and Amplitude of the cannabis experience. The variables are crowd-sourced via experiential self-reports on iOS and Android interfaces. </p>
Andrew Freedman, Senior Vice President at Forbes Tate Partners
Andrew Freedman, Senior Vice President at Forbes Tate Partners<p>Andrew brings vast experience from his three years as the State of Colorado's first Director of Cannabis Coordination. During this time, he developed distinctive experience effectively implementing voter-mandated legalized adult-use and medical cannabis while protecting public health, maintaining public safety, and keeping cannabis out of the hands of children.<br><br>Andrew's role in developing a successful operating model for cannabis regulation and stakeholder collaboration was identified as one of the reasons for the State of Colorado's success in implementing adult-use cannabis legalization by the Brookings Institution. Governor Hickenlooper has gone so far as to praise Andrew's work while on national television, stating, "Andrew Freedman, who came in and helped us once it was passed . . . [has] done a remarkable job of creating a regulatory framework."<br><br>Andrew has received national recognition for his leadership. Men's Health Magazine named him one of the 30 most influential health influencers of the last 30 years. He was recognized as one of Fast Company's "100 Most Creative People in Business" in 2016. He has been featured on 60 Minutes, NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Governing Magazine, and dozens of local stories throughout the nation and internationally.</p>
Tami Abdollah, Senior Reporter at dot.LA
Tami Abdollah, Senior Reporter at dot.LA<p>Tami Abdollah is dot.LA's senior technology reporter. She was previously a national security and cybersecurity reporter for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C. She's been a reporter for the AP in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and for L.A.'s NPR affiliate KPCC. Abdollah spent nearly a year in Iraq as a U.S. government contractor. A native Angeleno, she's traveled the world on $5 a day, taught trad climbing safety classes and is an avid mountaineer.</p>
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