Million Euro Boost for Neuro Start-up to Address Mental Health Disorders with Flickering Light


When the Siegert group succeeded in rejuvenating mice brains in 2021, they already suspected the method’s non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical potential to treat mental health disorders. Through the Institute’s technology transfer program, xista innovation, they launched a MedTech company called Syntropic Medical. Now, together with CEO Mark Caffrey and CTO Jack O’Keeffe, they secured seven-figure funding from xista’s venture fund and the Austria Wirtschaftsservice (AWS).

© Syntropic Medical GmbH

The team behind Syntropic Medical. Alessandro Venturino, Jack O’Keeffe, Sandra Siegert, and Mark Caffrey (f.l.t.r.)

© Syntropic Medical GmbH

Neuroscientist Alessandro Venturino showcasing Syntropic’s prototype.

© Syntropic Medical GmbH
© Syntropic Medical GmbH

Syntropic’s spectacle-like brain stimulation device is based on a startling discovery: flickering light can help neurological treatment. Because the method can be applied to living organisms without surgery and does not require pharmaceuticals, lead researchers Alessandro Venturino and Sandra Siegert of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) immediately recognized its high therapeutic potential. Together with CEO Mark Caffrey and CTO Jack O'Keeffe, they founded the start-up Syntropic Medical through the Institute's innovation program xista innovation. Prototypes are currently being tested. The finished product is intended to be a therapy option that healthcare professionals can offer to their patients with mental health disorders.

CEO Mark Caffrey: “Approximately 70% of patients taking pharmaceutical antidepressants do not achieve remission and up to 25% stop taking them due to severe side effects. Unfortunately, these numbers are not good enough. It is therefore crucial that we begin to develop entirely new ways to treat these disorders. This is why the discoveries of Dr. Venturino and Prof. Siegert are so exciting, as they open up the potential for a completely new treatment modality that is free of side effects and simple for patients to use.”

The Secret of Syntropic Medical

Syntropic Medical is a medical device company based in Austria that is developing new technologies to enhance the brain's neuroplasticity. This means that the device allows the brain to more flexibly form new connections by softening the brain's stabilizing structures—the perineuronal nets. As a result, the brain temporarily returns to a state otherwise known from early developmental stages, such as childhood. By re-establishing plasticity, one could potentially alter detrimental structures more easily. This non-invasive therapy has the potential to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) and other neuropsychiatric disorders. It improves cognition and provides new options for patients who have not responded to traditional therapies.

“By developing a neuromodulation-based approach for mental health disorders, Syntropic Medical is addressing a market with a pressing need and significant potential,” adds Florian Resch, Managing Partner at xista science ventures. “We look forward to working with this ambitious team to commercialize the promising and innovative discoveries made in the Siegert lab at ISTA.”

xista science ventures – a venture fund from ISTA for DeepTech across Europe

xista science ventures is an Austrian venture fund that invests in early-stage life science and DeepTech startups across Europe. It is embedded in the xista innovation ecosystem, which was founded by the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) to transfer knowledge from basic research to companies that generate returns for society. Combining the scientific and investor perspectives, xista science ventures is an active partner to its portfolio companies in the fields of BioTech, MedTech, material science, and software. Its goal is to support founders in the realization and scaling of scientific enterprises.

The venture fund is supported by InnovFin Equity, with financial support from the European Union under the Horizon 2020 Financial Instruments, and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), established under the Investment Plan for Europe. The purpose of the EFSI is to support the financing and implementation of productive investments in the European Union and to ensure better access to finance.

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