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Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson backs brain
JAY GORY, MANAGING EDITOR, science
A sleep tech startup that makes headbands which promise users a better night’s sleep by “stimulating” their brains has raised £26m (€31m), in a funding round led by healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson’s venture arm. Dreem, which has offices in Paris and San Francisco, will use the Series B financing to fine tune its headsets and develop its sleep technology by hiring top talent in neuroscience, chasing a market that its founder, Huge Mercier, claims could be around 30pc of the population. Mercier dreamt up with the idea for the headbands in 2014, while studying engineering at École Polytechnique in Paris. After developing a fascination with sleep, Mercier worked with neuroscientists and found that stimulating the brain may enhance deep sleep and help people get to sleep quicker using EEG. Although a tentative area of scientific research, Mercier gained the backing of billionaire French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, French insurance leaders MAIF and entrepreneur and biotech investor Dr. Laurent Alexandre, a renowned advocate of “transhumanism”, a movement focused on merging humanity and technology. Mercier used the cash to hire a team and create a consumer-friendly headset that worked on par with electroencephalogram (EEG) equipment typically found in a laboratory equipment. The company has grown from two co-founders to 70 members of staff, with $22 million in funding to date. The headband monitors sleep activity and sends sound to the wearers' head, which it claims aids sleep Dreem has already sold “thousands” of headbands and began shipping the product, costing €500, in February, Mercier said. “Understanding and improving sleep is one of the most important technological, scientific and societal undertakings of our time," Mercier told the Telegraph. While admitting the headband was not a "magic solution" he said it offered a positive alternative to sleeping pills and hoped the funding would accelerate more research into the area. Dreem will create a rich pool of anonymised data from its users which could be used to help scientists understand sleep patterns. The information could be particularly lucrative for Johnson & Johnson, which manufactures personal health and medical devices and has already invested in a baby sleep app, Rest.  read more
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