Introduction

At 78.9 years, the average American’s life expectancy is way higher now than it was a century ago — 53.6 for men and 54.6 for women. It’s exciting that we can all make plans to enjoy life for at least a couple extra decades. Getting older isn’t all fun and games, though — it also means more time to develop a health condition, like a neurological or retinal disease. 

JuneBrain knows how important it is to keep track of each individual’s health, and the company wants to make that easier to do. That’s why it developed a device called Neuro-i and a platform to help monitor patients’ neurological and retinal health in and out of the clinic. We reached out to founder and CEO Samantha Scott to hear about her own experience with a neurological condition and JuneBrain’s end goal. 

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Funding Round Details

JuneBrain logo
Company: JuneBrain
Security Type: SAFE
Valuation: $8,000,000
Min Investment: $100
Platform: Republic
Deadline: Mar 3, 2023
$1,235,000
View Deal

In your own words, how would you describe JuneBrain?

JuneBrain Inc. specializes in developing retinal imaging systems to remotely detect and monitor brain and eye diseases. Approximately 1.3 billion individuals worldwide suffer from conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the progression of which can be informed by measures of the retina. 

Our goal is to revolutionize the legacy diagnostic process for brain and eye diseases by expanding the reach of clinics to patients who have been limited by labor-intensive and expensive hardware solutions, including rural and underserved communities. With our advanced, more accessible device and artificial intelligence-driven software solutions for retinal imaging, we are poised to disrupt the industry and lower barriers to neurological and optical therapy. Our proprietary AI software-as-a-system (SaaS) model will drive value to investors through recurring revenue streams and a mission-driven approach to telehealth.

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company? How have your personal experiences guided your decisions as a founder?

I love the eyes and the brain and have spent the past 15 years at the cutting edge of technologies designed to improve the quality of people’s lives. Throughout my work, I have been most inspired by patients’ resiliency and creativity in finding ways to manage their own health within the limitations of our current healthcare system.    

In addition to being a neuroscientist and engineer (a true nerd!), I am also a neurology patient. In 2017, I was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder and was immediately faced with a significant challenge: My neurologist only had the bandwidth to see me once a year. The challenge of having to understand and communicate changes in my disease to my providers between clinical visits is what inspired me to launch JuneBrain. I have since led the company as a disabled founder and built a team of brilliant, diverse individuals who are equally passionate about improving the quality of life of neurology and retinal disease patients. 

Why is retinal imaging important? What can it tell us about our greater health?

The eye is quite literally a window to the brain and body’s nervous system. Retinal imaging is commonly used to evaluate the health of the eye and progression of ocular diseases, including AMD, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. However, the retina is also a physical extension of the nervous system, and changes in the brain can manifest in the retina, including vascular changes. In this way, retinal imaging also serves as a noninvasive means of detecting and managing systemic and neurodegenerative conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, MS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. It can be used to help evaluate an individual’s risk of developing a disease, early diagnosis, disease progression, and treatment efficacy.  

How did your team come together?

My team first came together in 2018 when we received our first grant funding from the National Sciences Foundation. In parallel with developing the first iterations of our technology, we spent seven weeks traveling across the country to conduct customer interviews to validate the need for our product and inform our business model. To date, we’ve spoken with more than 250 stakeholders to ensure our business model adapts to the changing landscape of telehealth and retinal imaging technologies. 

JuneBrain’s team now consists of four full-time employees and seven in-house contractors. We are also supported by renowned advisors in the ophthalmology and neurology space and business advisors who have led successful medtech startups. 

What does your product suite entail beyond retinal imaging?

Our product suite includes the Neuro-i, a wearable and noninvasive retinal imaging device and AI SaaS platform that detects changes in the eye and allows clinicians to remotely track disease progression and patient responses to treatment between clinical visits. 

In addition to the device, we are also offering a clinical trial service in which research groups and pharmaceutical companies can submit their retinal imaging data to JuneBrain for automated analysis using our AI SaaS platform. 

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

Our competition includes current optical coherence tomography (OCT) manufacturers, like ZEISS and Heidelberg Engineering, that are developing legacy machines that cannot support telehealth opportunities. Their OCT machines must be operated by trained technicians, are heavy, and are cost prohibitive. 

In contrast, our technology will be cheaper, lightweight, portable, and fully automated for unsupervised patient self-use in clinical and nonclinical settings. Our product will allow for regular, remote monitoring of patients by eye and neurology clinics as well as bring OCT to new markets, including pharmacy settings, assisted living homes, and primary care clinics.

What do you plan to accomplish in 2023 with the company?

This is an exciting year for JuneBrain! Our 2023 key performance indicators include generating sales revenue from our first target customers, obtaining FDA clearance of our AI SaaS platform for further market expansion, and completing pivotal studies of our Neuro-i device for FDA submission in early 2024. 

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

These funds will allow us to scale up our cloud infrastructure and team as needed to support growth following our first product launch. We’ll also use the money to help reach FDA approval (including clinical study support) and further patent prosecution.

As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

Years from now, my goal is to see our products reach the pinnacle of accessibility, where a Neuro-i is in every local pharmacy or individual’s home and used to monitor both patients and healthy individuals at risk of disease. I believe this will come through acquisition by a strategic partner (for example, an OCT manufacturer, pharmaceutical company, or retail chain) with the infrastructure and channels in place to reach this scale.  

We look forward to seeing where Samantha and her team take the company. JuneBrain is currently raising on Republic.