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Monday, June 5, 2023

Elon Musk’s Neuralink is looking for a Human Trail Partner

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Even though his plans for brain implants haven’t been approved yet, Elon Musk keeps moving forward with them.

According to Reuters, one of the biggest and most renowned U.S. neurosurgery clinics has been asked to cooperate with the billionaire’s biotech company Neuralink in potential future human clinical studies. The corporation is in discussions with the Barrow Neurological Center in Phoenix, Arizona, according to six unnamed people who spoke to Reuters.

Elon Musk Neuralink has said for years that trials with people are just around the corner. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t yet given the company permission to put its brain-computer interface (BCI) devices inside people’s heads. In fact, it didn’t file its first application for this kind of approval until 2022, even though Elon Musk had said in public that human tests would start in 2019. According to a report from early March, the FDA turned down the company’s first request to test on people last year.

Still, Neuralink’s very ambitious plan to use its brain implant to treat a wide range of illnesses and disabilities, from blindness to paralysis, doesn’t have to fail just because it was turned down. The fact that the company is still looking for an institution to work with to do human tests shows that Elon Musk and other Neuralink executives are still confident in the future of their device.

Reporter tried to get in touch with Neuralink to find out more, but as of the time of publication, they hadn’t replied. Like Elon Musk’s other businesses, such as Twitter and Tesla, Neuralink almost never answers questions from journalists. Reporter also emailed the Barrow Neurological Institute, but they didn’t answer right away.

A director at the Arizona treatment and research center, on the other hand, told Reuters that Barrow would be a good place to do research on brain implants like what Neuralink wants to do.

Even so, talks about a partnership are not set in stone, and a deal is not a given. Sources who didn’t want to be named told Reuters that Neuralink has been in talks with more than just Barrow.

Neuralink used to work with the University of California, Davis to do research on animals. In particular, the biotech company did work at the California National Primate Research Center, which is part of UC Davis. A news release from the university in 2022 says that the partnership ended in 2020 for reasons that were not made clear.

Neuralink is being looked into by two federal agencies right now. The first is from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is about how the company tests on animals. It comes after an animal rights group said that Neuralink broke animal welfare laws and put its mammalian test subjects through unnecessary pain. Neuralink has said that the accusations of torturing animals are not true.

The Department of Transportation is looking into the biotech company again because of claims that dangerous biological materials were not transported properly.

Elon Musk has talked a lot about how safe Neuralink is and how its ultimate goal is to make humans into AI-proof cyborgs, but the company hasn’t done much yet. Neuralink’s most recent “show and tell” event was just a repeat of something that was done almost 20 years ago.

In the meantime, other companies that are working on brain-computer interfaces have moved forward in the steps they need to take to get to market. After getting FDA approval the year before, Synchron said it implanted its first BCI device in a person in July 2022.



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