Toronto-based Neuro Stream Provides Seed Funding to Neuroscience Startups – The Varsity
The Rotman-affiliated Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), which manages start-up funding programs for science and technology companies, recently announced its latest funding program, called Neuro Stream. For the first cycle of Neuro Stream, CDL plans to accept an inaugural cohort of 20 startups working in industries such as pharmaceuticals related to neuroscience, treatments for neurodegenerative disorders, technology that monitors patients’ nervous systems, and collaborative technologies that work on connecting the brain and external devices.
The CDL has 10 global sites that host a total of 16 funding streams, covering topics such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and outer space, but the Neuro Stream is based out of its Toronto site. The Neuro Stream is best suited for growth companies and pre-incorporation projects, explained Valerie Chiykowski, associate director of CDL Toronto in an email to University, but startups at all stages of development are eligible to apply.
Four areas of innovation
The CDL mapped the ongoing research in the field of neurology through interviews with neurotechnology experts including Shivon Zilis, director of operations and special projects in the office of the CEO of Neuralink; Mike Tymianski, CEO of Nono Inc. and professor of neurosurgery at the University of Toronto; and Michelle Chernock, Head of Neuroscience Medical for Novartis Canada. From this map, the group selected four areas of potential innovation: drug discovery and pharmaceuticals, neuromodulation, neurosurveillance and data utility, and brain-computer interfaces.
The field of drug and pharmaceutical discovery includes companies that focus on improving mental health and general brain health. Neuromodulation refers to the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Neuromonitoring and the utility of data is an area that includes companies looking to collect and use data extracted from observing brain activity. Finally, brain-computer interfaces are technologies that read brain impulses and can support damaged motor, cognitive and sensory functions.
Inside CDL Neuro
Delivered over a nine-month period, the early-stage business incubator will lead neuroscience projects in one of four areas of innovation established to grow their business through the mentorship of successful entrepreneurs. The CDL mentorship program will have two components.
The first component consists of highly structured “Session Day” events that will take place every eight weeks. Founders will attend small group meetings where they will alternate between mentors providing feedback. After these rotations are completed, the mentors’ feedback will be consolidated into a large, moderated discussion during which the founders can then refine their goals. Over the next eight weeks, the founders will work towards achieving these goals.
The second part of the mentoring program consists of four hour unstructured mentoring sessions which may include consultative meetings, facilitated introductions, pitch presentations, etc.
The main function of the CDL is to provide the founders of new companies with the mentorship of experts in the field. Instead of directly investing or taking capital in these companies, CDL instead connects them to external financial opportunities, which in the past included funding from corporate capital funds. The CDL often introduces companies to these financial opportunities.
During session days, business founders can receive constructive criticism and helpful advice they could use to pivot their market or business models from mentors who have first-hand experience in their field. They are therefore expected to take advantage of the limited time they have with the industry experts who mentor them. The best way to do this, writes Chiykowski, is to understand each mentor’s professional background and specialized experience.
Chiykowski’s advice to aspiring business founders is twofold: be prepared and open-minded. “Being open-minded to new ideas for your business can lead to opportunities for growth and development that might not have been possible without the perspective of CDL mentors,” she wrote.