Matter emerges from stealth with $26m to find a biomarker for happiness

Neuroscience company seeks to harness healthy neurotransmitter activity to help humans live longer, healthier, happier lives.

New York-based startup Matter Neuroscience has emerged from stealth, securing $26 million in funding to support its mission to unravel the complexities of happiness. The company is seeking a so-called “biomarker for happiness,” with the expectation that such a discovery could advance our understanding of the biological foundations of positive emotions and lead to breakthroughs in mental health disorders.

Matter is focused on understanding the neurotransmitters in our brain that, when activated, make us feel good, create memories, and build the “neuroplasticity” that helps the brain change and adapt. The company says that this increased neuroplasticity not only helps humans become smarter, more empathetic, and more creative, but it is also correlated with longer, healthier, and happier lives.

There are clear links between happiness and human longevity. Renowned longevity investor Christian Angermayer has called mental health the “number one” disease of the 21st century, and multiple studies have shown that subjective well-being is associated with a decreased risk of mortality and significantly predicts longevity in the general population. Additionally, people who report high levels of subjective well-being live longer and in greater health than those reporting lower wellbeing scores.

Positive early results in subjective well-being and brain markers have prompted Matter to release a public beta version of its mobile app, which is designed to allow healthy users to record and reflect on positive experiences. The app aims to help individuals comprehend the neurotransmitter activity behind their positive moments and make lifestyle adjustments to enhance health and happiness. Matter also provides access to educational materials and a lecture series on the neuroscience of happiness.

Matter raises $26m to find a biomarker for happiness

Currently in its third year of clinical studies, Matter collaborates with distinguished experts in brain imaging and happiness research, including Professor Rainer Goebel of Maastricht University Brain Imaging Center, Meik Wiking and the team at the Happiness Research Institute, and professors at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. High-field fMRI studies examining the neuroscientific basis of positive emotions using the Matter app will be presented at the 2024 Organization for Human Brain Mapping Annual Meeting, with full study data and analysis anticipated later this year. The company plans to initiate three additional clinical studies in 2024.

“Based on our early study results we see strong evidence for a universal map of distinct positive emotions in the human brain,” said Goebel. “In addition to guiding healthy individuals to greater well-being, this may provide a path to emotion regulation training for depression treatment.”

The brainchild of veteran biotech and pharmaceutical executive Axel Bouchon, Matter was co-founded in 2019 with Ben Goldhirsh of GOOD Worldwide and Chris Shiflett of Faculty and Brooklyn Beta.

“The wealthiest areas of the world are struggling with record levels of depression, addiction, and anxiety,” said Bouchon. “Our consumer culture systematically blocks brain development and erodes mental health. Matter offers a scientifically based, universal, biological indicator for human progress and sustainable happiness.”

Matter is funded by ARCH Venture Partners, Polaris Partners, and Exor Ventures, and others. Paul Berns of ARCH Venture Partners and Amir Nashat of Polaris Partners serve on Matter’s Board of Directors.

Image courtesy of Matter Neuroscience