When Michael Sughrue was studying medicine in the early 2000s, surgeons didn’t have a full picture of the brain. While MRI and CT scans could spot structural abnormalities, they couldn’t tell how brain cells, known as neurons,were connected or how they communicated. “I didn’t want to hurt people when we did brain surgery. I couldn’t see where really important things in the brain were,” says Sughrue. That’s what motivated him to cofound Omniscient Neurotechnology along with Stephane Doyen. Their startup creates neuronal brain maps, which can aid decision-making related to surgeries and therapeutics.

The Australia-based startup, which has U.S. offices in Wilmington, Delaware, announced a $30 million Series B financing on July 19, 2021 led by several Australian billionaires valuing the three-year old company at $295 million.

With approximately 86 billion neurons wired together in convoluted electrical circuits, the brain is the most complex human organ. Brain maps can help doctors spot abnormal connections, the misfiring of neurons in patients with brain tumors, neurodegenerative conditions, anxiety and depression, Sughrue, 42, says. It also helps map human emotions and intellect.

Once doctors identify a cluster of misfiring neurons through the maps, they can use brain stimulation therapies such as trans transcranial magnetic stimulation with utmost precision, Sughrue adds.“It gives us the ability to look into someone’s brain, figure out what’s firing incorrectly and edit it,” he says.

The technology to map neuronal connections in the brain, also called a connectome, was developed by applying machine learning algorithms to tens of thousands of MRI scans. “It is like Google Maps of the brain,” explains Omniscient’s CEO Stephen Scheeler, who was previously the CEO of Facebook for Australia and New Zealand.

One of Omniscient’s products called Quicktome, which provides brain maps and visualizations of connections, received FDA approval  in the United States in September 2020. Michael McDermott, a neurosurgeon at the Miami Neuroscience Institute, who also mentored Sughrue during his residency will is excited to use the new technology. “I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. It is a big step forward in our understanding of the functions and the interconnections of the human brain,” McDermott says. His center will soon start using Omniscient’s technology for his patients who may need brain surgeries. “No longer are we going to look at the white blobs on MRIs. We are also going to look at relationships of all (neuronal) fibre tracts and clusters,” he added.