This biotech startup wants to prevent unhappiness. Here’s the pitch deck Matter Neuroscience used to raise $26 million.

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Axel Bouchon cofounded Matter Neuroscience in 2019 after leading the venture arms of pharma giants Moderna and Bayer. Working in pharma, he set out to cure neurological disease — “and to be honest, I failed,” he told Business Insider.

He now believes that neurological conditions like severe depression and addiction, while they can be treated, can’t ever be cured.

That revelation led him to start Matter to search for a biomarker for happiness and seek to prevent the progression of neurological disease in the first place.

For the past three years, Matter has been researching the science of happiness in clinical studies using fMRIs to monitor continuous brain activity. The startup just grabbed a handful of cash to power more research.

Matter has emerged from stealth with $26 million from ARCH Venture Partners, Polaris Partners, Exor Ventures, and other investors, Business Insider has learned exclusively.

That $26 million includes an initial seed round led by Polaris Partners and a Series A round co-led by ARCH Venture Partners, Polaris Partners, and Exor Ventures. Bouchon joined ARCH as a venture partner in 2021 to advise the firm on its neuroscience deals, he said.

Matter has partnered with scientists from labs, including the Maastricht University Brain Imaging Center in the Netherlands and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, on a number of studies about the neuroscience of happiness. The startup’s study with Maastricht, for example, aims to stimulate positive emotions in study participants to map which parts of the brain activate with those emotions, and provide personalized happiness recommendations to participants through Matter’s app.

Matter began to notice, however, that participants who engaged in the study for three to four weeks didn’t stop using Matter’s app after the study was over.

“That led to a completely unconventional decision of the company — let’s bring that research app immediately from the lab into the pockets of users,” Bouchon said.

Matter is now releasing its app to consumers for public use. The app aims to help people capture and reflect on positive moments, understand the molecular basis for those experiences, and use that understanding to shape their future happiness. That’s because reflecting on positive memories is the best way to trigger positive emotions reliably, Bouchon said.

Matter launched a beta version of the app and plans to use feedback from its first users to “make it more fun,” Bouchon said.

The startup views itself now as a consumer biotech startup, Bouchon said. He said Matter may seek to sell subscriptions for its consumer app in the future.

Most of Matter’s $26 million cash infusion will go toward its continued research. The startup aims to begin three new clinical studies this year.

Matter expects to present the results of its studies analyzing the neuroscience behind positive emotions and well-being using the Matter app in June at this year’s Organization for Human Brain Mapping Annual Meeting in Seoul, South Korea.

If Matter finds a biomarker for happiness like it wants, the startup can sell its findings to pharmaceutical companies — which could yield big returns for its investors.

Correction: February 26, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated which firms led Matter Neuroscience’s Series A and the company’s name in the headline. The Series A was co-led by ARCH Venture Partners, Polaris Partners, and Exor Ventures. It also clarifies Matter Neuroscience’s studies done in partnership with the Maastricht University Brain Imaging Center in the Netherlands and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Here’s the 17-slide pitch deck Matter used to raise $26 million.

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