AI

Neuralink, the Start-up Behind Elon Musk’s Brain Implant, Raises an Additional $43M

Neuralink, the company founded by Elon Musk, which is developing implantable chips capable of reading brain waves, has secured an additional $43 million in venture capital, as per a filing with the SEC.

According to the filing published this week, the company increased its previous funding round, led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, from $280 million to $323 million in early August. The filing indicates that thirty-two investors participated.

Although Neuralink has not recently disclosed its valuation, a Reuters report from June suggested the company was valued at approximately $5 billion after privately-executed stock trades.

Established in 2016, Neuralink has developed a sewing machine-like device capable of implanting ultra-thin threads inside the brain. These threads attach to a custom-designed chip containing electrodes that can read information from groups of neurons.

Implants for reading brain signals have been around for decades. However, Neuralink’s innovation lies in creating wireless implants and increasing the number of electrodes being implanted.

In May, Neuralink received FDA approval for human clinical trials after a previously rejected application, and opened its first human trials for recruitment under an investigational device exemption by the FDA.

Neuralink, however, is facing increasing scrutiny due to allegations of a toxic workplace culture and unethical research practices.

An article in Fortune from January 2022 described a “culture of blame and fear” based on accounts from anonymous former employees, who reported that Musk frequently undercut management by encouraging junior employees to email issues and complaints to him directly. By August 2020, only three of the eight founding scientists remained at the company, a result of internal conflicts between rushed timelines and the slow pace of scientific progress.

In 2022, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) alleged that Neuralink and its previous research partner, UC Davis, mistreated several monkeys involved in testing Neuralink hardware, subjecting them to psychological distress and chronic infections due to surgeries. Reports from both Reuters and Wired suggested that testing was rushed due to Musk’s demands for fast results, resulting in complications such as partial paralysis and brain swelling from the installation of electrodes.

For nearly a year, Neuralink was under federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for animal welfare violations. The USDA concluded that there was “no evidence” of animal welfare breaches in the startup’s trials, other than a previous, self-reported incident from 2019, although the PCRM disputed the results of the investigation.

In November 2023, U.S. lawmakers requested the SEC to investigate Neuralink for omitting details about the deaths of at least a dozen animals that were surgically fitted with its implants.

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