BlinkLab to advance smartphone-neurobehavioural testing following IPO and ASX debut

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By Imelda Cotton - 
BlinkLab ASX BB1 IPO new listing

Neuroscientist-led start-up BlinkLab (ASX: BB1) has made its Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) debut today after an oversubscribed initial public offering raised $7 million to advance a diagnostic tool for neurodevelopmental disorders.

The company has committed to the issue of 35 million shares at $0.20 each for an undiluted market capitalisation of $19.8m on listing.

The proceeds are expected to provide sufficient working capital to complete regulatory clinical studies and receive approvals from US and European authorities for the tool to be used as a clinical aid in the early diagnosis of conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia.

For this to occur, BlinkLab will need to complete a pivotal registrational study with up to 500 subjects and subsequently apply for US Food and Drug Administration registration and reimbursement for the tests.

Enrolments are expected to start later this year and the study is planned for completion in mid-2025.

BlinkLab said FDA approval would be sought via a 510(k) application based on a ‘predicate device’ already on the market.

Smartphone application

BlinkLab was established to accelerate the commercialisation of intellectual property relating to smartphone-neurobehavioral testing first developed at Princeton University.

In 2017, co-founders Dr Hendrikus Boele and Dr Sebastiaan Koekkoek journeyed to Princeton to install a custom eyeblink conditioning setup at the university’s renowned “baby lab,” which specialises in child development.

Eyeblink conditioning experiments were performed on infants at risk of ASD, using soft materials and high-speed video tracking of the face.

In 2018, Dr Boele moved to Princeton to work on ASD and brain development, during which time he revitalised the idea of smartphone-neurobehavioral testing.

The first diagnostic application and human study in 2020 showed that an ordinary mobile phone could be turned into a device for conducting neurobehavioral evaluations at scale.

On completion of the study, Princeton patented the idea of smartphone-neurobehavioral testing and the following year BlinkLab partnered with a European software development firm to commercialise the app for the iPhone platform.

Approximately $4.4m has been spent to date on the development of the e-platform, funded mostly by government grants, industry sponsorships and various seed raisings.

Work has included validation of the platform’s diagnostic capabilities, development of the software which underpins the technology and clinical studies.

Neurometric tests

BlinkLab’s mobile app serves as a medical device to perform neurometric tests to aid in the early diagnosis of neurodevelopmental conditions.

The artificial intelligence (AI)-based tool is designed to be used at home or in a similar comfortable environment, either independently or with the assistance of a caregiver.

The various tests performed serve as biomarkers for neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Participant responses are measured by the smartphone’s camera and microphone and are processed in real time using state-of-the-art computer vision techniques.

The results are uploaded to BlinkLab’s secure cloud-based portal for storage and analysis using machine learning.

Research has shown that performance in eyeblink conditioning, prepulse inhibition and startle habituation is strongly correlated with neuropsychiatric conditions such as ASD, schizophrenia, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Bridging the gap

BlinkLab non-executive chair Brian Leedman said the company’s ASX listing during world autism month was a reminder of its dedication to bridging the gap between high-tech science and the “real-world needs” of families navigating neuro-developmental challenges.

“I believe BlinkLab is the next ground-breaking venture in digital healthcare which leverages the power of smartphones, AI and machine learning to deliver autism screening tests specifically designed for children as young as 18 months old,” he said.

“It will aid healthcare providers to identify these children at a much younger age than [current techniques allow], providing a pathway to effective treatment and better outcomes for the child and their families.”

He said the cutting-edge technology was poised to “capture the imagination” of major industry players keen to embrace transformative solutions in healthcare.