August 17, 2010
San Francisco Business Times
Chris Rauber

San Francisco’s Brain Plasticity Inc., a technology incubator focused on studying brain plasticity to help people with neurological and psychiatric disorders, said Tuesday it has been awarded two grants totaling $3.65 million from the National Institutes of Health.

Officials said Aug. 17 they hope the grants will ultimately help the incubator, which has links to San Francisco’s Posit Science, develop and fund clinical trials for software to improve cognitive function in people with schizophrenia ($3 million) and visual attention in stroke patients. ($650,000).

The research is based on technology developed by Posit Science, which released the news Tuesday. The announcement said the research “offers the promise of radically new, non-invasive, safe and effective treatments for these currently untreated medical conditions.”

Stephanie Schlegel, an outside spokeswoman for Posit Science, said it has no financial investment in BPI. It simply provides its software for the studies, and “distributed the release” to get more attention to the brain training field. Steven Aldrich is Posit Science’s CEO.

In July 2009, Posit Science told the San Francisco Business Times it had 65 staffers and had raised nearly $36 million in venture capital. Founded in 2003, it posted revenue of $10 million and $20 million in 2008 and at the time expected to do about as well in 2009.

The NIH’s Biomedical Research, Development, and Growth to Spur the Acceleration of New Technologies (BRDG-SPAN) program was created last year as part of the Obama Administration’s stimulus package to help innovative technologies move from the lab to commercialization.

BPI was awarded a $3 million BRDG-SPAN grant to build a cognitive remediation program specifically designed for people with schizophrenia. Officials said the goal is to apply “proven principles of applied brain plasticity” — the science of creating structural, functional, and chemical brain change through scientifically designed brain exercises — to improve memory, attention and other cognitive functions in schizophrenics.

Such a result is thought to be crucial in helping such patients live more independently.

BPI was also awarded $650,000 by NIH’s Small Business Innovation Research program to study a software-based program for treatment of hemi-spatial neglect, which results from certain kinds of strokes and makes patients lose visual awareness of much of the world around them.