Driving Human Performance

My partners and I at JAZZ Venture Partners believe that all human beings possess vast untapped potential. That includes everyone from Olympians and CrossFit champions to any individual trying to achieve a goal. We were excited to be involved in the $9 million Series A funding round for Halo Neuroscience, a company pioneering the use of neurostimulation to boost athletic performance, treat injuries, and even help rehabilitate stroke patients. It is always thrilling to see ideas that have fascinated the scientific community moving beyond research and getting to people that will see tangible lifestyle benefits from those innovations — which is exactly what Halo is working to do.

Our confidence in this technology and in Halo is based on the capabilities of Co-Founder and Chief Executive Dr. Daniel Chao, a serial entrepreneur and neuroscientist, and Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder Dr. Brett Wingeier, a clinical scientist and biomedical engineer. This duo has created a training tool that can uplevel performance for a wide range of athletes. Chao and Wingeier previously spent more than a decade together at NeuroPace, where they developed the world’s first implanted, responsive neurostimulator for epilepsy treatment. After nearly 15 years of work, this device was unanimously approved by the FDA in 2013, which is a very challenging consensus to achieve.

The company’s first device, Halo Sport, doubles as a set of headphones which promote rapid gains in strength and motor skills for elite athletes. The headset delivers pulses of energy to the brain’s motor cortex (a technology known as transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS), optimizing connections between the brain and the muscles when paired with an intense workout. This non-invasive and non-pharmacologic approach to neurostimulation represents just the start of a brain training device market expected to rise to $8.79 billion by 2020, according to a report by Grand View Research.

We are at a unique point in history when it comes to the brain. Research and technology breakthroughs have made it possible to use what we know about brain plasticity and marry that with products that influence the electrical activity of the brain — unleashing its untapped potential. As a neurosurgeon and entrepreneur, I have experience helping many early stage companies thrive and become successful market leaders. JAZZ’s investment in Halo shows just how confident we are in Chao and Wingeier, their technology, and Halo’s ability to capitalize on demand from athletes for safe and effective neurotechnology.

But we are not the only ones excited by what Halo is doing. Three Major League Baseball and two National Basketball Association teams are using Halo Sport during spring training. The United States Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) measured notable improvements after completing a Halo Sport program aimed at increasing agility and power of ski jumps, which are determining factors in competition. Compared with a control group, ski jumpers that used Halo Sport improved their propulsion force by 1.7x over the control group, and increased the smoothness of their jumps by 1.8x over control. Halo has also partnered with Invictus — one of the nation’s most well-regarded CrossFit training programs — to help prepare their athletes for the 2016 CrossFit Open.

These are impressive numbers, but based on my familiarity with the scientific literature on tDCS, the results are well within our expectations. The brain is powerful, and Halo is helping to tap that power.

I am also eagerly anticipating how this technology could one day help stroke victims. Halo is already conducting research into how to accelerate their rate of recovery at The Medical University of South Carolina.

At JAZZ Venture Partners, we are actively investing in companies that are creating the fundamental building blocks of a future where we direct many of the experiences that make us who we are. We want to create powerful, new customized experiences that will impact the brain and shape us, just like “real” experiences. What this leads to is a notion that the brain is the next programmable platform. Just like programmers can code machines to determine their function and outputs, we can program the brain with the experiences that shape its development. Halo Sport is at the forefront of such efforts to to unlock athletes’ full potential. We are thrilled to be driving such change.