In the current market, we have everything-as-a-service, but the original purpose of the ‘as a service’ model was rooted in making conveniently packaged services of otherwise difficult to access or manage technologies. Kernel, a bioscience startup based out of LA has just raised $53 million in its series C round for its non-invasive “neuroscience-as-a-service” offering. The startup has developed two non-invasive technologies for recording brain activity, Flux (detects magnetic fields created by neutrons in the brain) and Flow (measures blood through the brain).
The company pitches this as a transformation akin to the move from mainframes to the PC or the transition from the $1 billion genome to the currently available $1k genome sequencing services. The narrative is that Kernel changes the game for companies, researchers and scientists trying to gain more insight into the brain – a bottleneck that founder Bryan Johnson claims is the reason AI capability is on a far more promising trajectory than humans themselves.
As the company announced earlier this year that it was opening up to general commercial customers it signalled a move into the type of services companies like Amazon provide through AWS or Microsoft through Azure. Cloud and AI capabilities were once as inaccessible and expensive as sophisticated biotechnologies today, Kernel is trying to be the player that democratises access to advanced neuroscience technology. Kernel throughout its website breaks down its service offering as low-cost, scalable hardware combined with a world-class “full-stack neuroscience” team. Basically the company’s neuroscientists will optimize the hardware, design and execute the experiments as well as analyze and interpret the results for clients. The presence of expert aid is definitely more significant than what we see with Cloud-as-a-service or even AI-as-a-service products today, perhaps even more important than the hardware itself in democratising access to neuroscience on a commercial scale.
As the field evolves and more companies enter the space to democratise access to neuroscience technology, we may see many more companies focusing on being the distributors of the data collecting devices themselves rather than just the surrounding services – where Kernel is still at the stage of building a product around a particular capability. Whether they will evolve in this direction could play a large part in how big a market presence they’re able to establish. This path would be similar to what ASML did for microchips, becoming the monopoly supplier of the semiconductors that enable the entire microprocessor and therefore computing industry.