Amsterdam-based Phosphoenix, a company that is working to help blind people regain functional vision even after extensive damage to the eye or optic nerve, announced on Thursday, September 22, that it raised an undisclosed amount of funding in a pre-Seed round.
Phosphoenix says it will use the proceeds to translate its scientific knowledge into the development of the product. The company says that it is developing a novel probe that can be implanted with minor surgery and that produces the perception dots of light in wider areas of the visual field.
In order to prepare for a first-in-human study, the novel probe will be used to collect preclinical data. Phosphoenix will also hire engineers to support the development of this product.
Bert Monna, CEO of Phosphoenix, says, “With this support from our investors, we can continue developing and testing the prosthesis. The extensive network and expertise of our investors will enable us to speed up our growth, and take steps towards the development of a product that could serve many blind people in the long term.”
“Blindness is curable”
Blindness affects over 40 million individuals worldwide and has a significant impact on a person’s autonomy and quality of life. For blind persons who have lost the link between the eye and the brain, and who make up a large majority of the afflicted population, current treatment choices continue to be unsuccessful and inappropriate.
This is where Phosphoenix looks to make a difference. The company aims to enable blind people to regain functional vision, even after extensive damage to the eye or optic nerve.
The company was founded in 2019 by Prof. Pieter Roelfsema, Prof. Xing Chen and Dr Bert Monna. It is a medical technology spin-off from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, a research institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Phosphoenix is developing a prosthesis to stimulate nerve cells in parts of the brain that are involved in visual perception. The prosthesis stimulates nerve cells artificially by inserting electrodes into the brain using a specialised probe. One electrode stimulated creates the sense of a dot of light, while several electrodes stimulated can make recognised patterns.
In the finished product, the patient will put on a set of spectacles that have a built-in camera, allowing them to view a condensed version of the outside world through the electrical stimulation of brain patterns.
Prof. Xing Chen, inventor and co-founder of Phosphoenix, says, “My dream is to allow blind people to regain functional vision using a safe durable device. We previously established proof-of-concept for this technology by developing a novel prosthesis and generating higher-resolution artificial images as never seen before. With this financing round, we have harnessed our unique scientific expertise to translate these cutting-edge advances in the lab into a clinical application, using novel materials and probe fabrication techniques.”
The Thematic Technology Transfer Medtech consortium is a collaborative partnership of the Innovation Industries, three academic medical institutes, and the Technology Transfer Offices of four Dutch Technical Universities. It was established to assist prospective early-stage tech spin-offs in making the initial move toward the development of innovative medical technology for commercialisation. Innovation Industries is the fund manager for the TTT Medtech Fund.
Fonds InvesteringsRijpe STarters (FIRST) is a pre-Seed fund that supports pioneering Dutch researchers working in the domains of cardiovascular disease and regenerative medicine. FIRST was founded by the Dutch CardioVascular Alliance (DCVA) and Regenerative Medicine Crossing Borders (RegMed XB) with the support of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. BioGeneration Ventures (BGV) supports FIRST Fund as a registered fund manager, making available its network, expertise, and facilities.
Innovatiefonds Noord-Holland (INH) is an initiative of the Province of North Holland, the University of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam UMC, and Sanquin, with support from the EU through the European Regional Development Fund. In response to the Corona pandemic, government officials in the EU agreed to establish an “EU Next Generation” recovery programme. The EU is promoting a green, digital, and resilient revival of the local economy in part through the REACT EU initiative. The REACT EU Fund also provided help to INH.
INH assists business owners in the Province of North Holland by offering convertible loans to finance innovation at the Proof-of-Concept stage. The first financial tranche’s duration is from 2018 to 2023.