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Class Notes May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Brave New Brain
Philip Low, Ph.D. '07

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In its annual lineup of 35 top young technology pioneers, MIT's Technology Review named Philip Low, Ph.D. '07, one of the world's most promising innovators, putting him in the same class as Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Low's computational neuroscience major at UCSD led him to create NeuroVigil in 2007, one of the first computational neuroscience-based companies. Based in La Jolla, it is "dedicated to the betterment of the human condition" through the use of wireless brain-recording technology as well as advanced computational algorithms. Low launched the company using his personal credit cards, but received nearly $300,000 in capital after winning the annual Draper Fisher Jurvetson Venture Challenge and the UCSD entrepreneurship competition in 2008. NeuroVigil went to market the following year.

"Coming to UCSD while the program was in its infancy gave me the opportunity to be part of a very exciting new project and benefit from the close mentorship of some of the key leaders in the field," says the 31-year-old Low.

He also recalls memorable times at UCSD such as jumping into the freezing ocean in the late hours of the night after a two-week neuroscience "Boot Camp" and Irwin Jacobs, the founder of Qualcomm, unexpectedly arriving at his Ph.D. thesis defense.

During graduate school, Low discovered a novel, noninvasive way to generate meaningful data from the brain. NeuroVigil now develops the iBrain, a wireless neural monitoring device that allows patients to participate in clinical trials from the comfort of their own home. The company assists three of the world's top 10 pharmaceutical companies with outpatient drug evaluations and has around 30 personnel including advisors, volunteers and contract employees. It also announced an agreement with Swiss pharma giant Roche last October. The collaboration will help speed up Roche's drug development for various central nervous system disorders.

"While we have a fair understanding of most organs in our body, the brain is very much the final frontier," Low says. "I envision a world where people can easily monitor their brain and gain a better insight into their neurological well-being."

—Sarah Alaoui, Sixth '11