You may have heard the saying “it’s not brain surgery” in the context of trying to prove something easy. Well there is a reason  — our brains are among the most difficult parts of our body to treat.

There are a few ASX small caps trying to capitalise on the opportunity brain health offers. Yet no two are seeking to address them in the same ways.

Some are producing self-assessment tools, while others are making drugs to tackle brain disease. There is even one stock developing software which mimics the human brain.


Self-assessment tools

Cogstate (ASX:CGS) has an online program which assesses brain health. Last year pharmaceutical firm Eisai agreed to market the tool in the Japanese market – critical because of Japan’s aging population.

Total Brain (ASX:TTB) has a similar program and it too won a deal with a large multinational firm – specifically IBM.

Total Brain’s SaaS platform helps people scientifically measure and optimise their brain capacity while managing the risk of common mental conditions. The product is aimed towards populations under stress or are going through life transitions such as former military personnel re-entering civilian life.


Brain disease fighters

Additionally there are a couple of stocks developing drugs to fight brain diseases.

The most common and aggressive brain cancer is glioblastoma and Kazia Therapeutics (ASX:KZA) is trying to tackle it.

It is currently undertaking a Phase II clinical trial and reported strong interim data last November. While it could not yet calculate a survival rate, evidence suggests its drug GDC-0084 may delay progression of glioblastoma. Full results are expected this year.

Another brain disorder is Rett Syndrome – which affects almost exclusively female toddlers and causes severe development problems. There is currently no known cure.

Telix Pharmaceuticals (ASX:TLX) is developing drugs to fight Rett Syndrome, among other diseases, and it is already in a phase three clinical trial. It has nearly doubled in the last 12 months.



Undoubtedly the most famous brain disease is Alzheimer’s and there are two small caps taking it head on.

First is Actinogen (ASX:ACW), which is developing a drug which inhibits production of cortisol – a stress hormone which in excessive levels is linked with the development and progression of Alzheimer’s.

Actinogen had a turbulent 2019, crashing when a clinical trial found 10mg Xanamem treatment did not improve cognition.

But later in the year, another trial which dosed at the 20mg level found statistically significant cognitive improvement. The share price rose nearly 500 per cent in just one day.

Second is Neuroscientific Biopharmaceuticals (ASX:NSB) which uses EmtinB therapeutic peptide. It binds to surface receptors of damaged neurons and stimulates neuron regeneration.

While shares have underperformed since listing in mid-2018 it expects to conclude safety and toxicity studies next month. A phase I clinical is expected in the second quarter of this year.

READ: Check out these 5 exciting ASX microcaps solving the world’s biggest health issues


Mimicking the brain

Have you ever heard of neuromorphic computing? It is a type of computing inspired by the brain’s hardware and there’s one stock in it – BrainChip (ASX:BRN).

While traditional computers shuttle information between central processing unit and the memory storage, neuromorphic chips process and store this as an integrated part of the same operation.

It can parallel process just like the brain and do tasks such as image processing faster and with less energy usage.

Market intelligence firm Tractica expects the market for this devices, also known as Deep Learning chipsets, to reach US$66 billion by 2025.

BrainChip’s Akida devices, which are neural network processors (accelerating heavy AI workloads), will finish design for test and wafer fabrication this month.

Read More: Brain apps hit their stride as deals start to flow