On Friday, Elon Musk announced that his brain-chip startup, Neuralink, is expected to commence its first human trial within this year. Musk revealed Neuralink’s plans to implant a device in a tetraplegic or paraplegic patient during a webcast.
Following a series of regulatory challenges and public concerns over the company’s animal testing practices, Neuralink has faced several delays and setbacks. Musk has predicted the start of human trials since 2019, but the company only submitted its application to the FDA in early 2022. The initial application was rejected due to safety concerns, including issues with the device’s lithium battery, the potential migration of the implant’s wires within the brain, and the risk of damaging brain tissue during device extraction. Neuralink’s progress is significant due to its potential to revolutionize treatments for severe conditions like paralysis and blindness. In March, the company was seeking collaborators for human trials of its brain-implanted chips.
While the exact details of the trial were not disclosed, Musk stated that the first case would be later this year. The announcement comes after Neuralink received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its first-in-human clinical trial, despite ongoing U.S. probes into its animal experiments.
However, Neuralink has faced criticism and regulatory scrutiny. Last year, employees reported rushed and botched surgeries on animals, leading to unnecessary deaths. This was allegedly due to Musk’s pressure to receive FDA approval. The company also faced federal scrutiny following these reports.
Despite these challenges, Neuralink’s valuation has increased recently. The startup was valued at close to $2 billion two years ago and is now worth around $5 billion, based on privately executed stock trades.
The intersection of technology and biology is a hot topic. Futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted that advancements in genetics, robotics, and nanotechnology could lead to human immortality by 2030. Musk has stated that Neuralink is the only way for humans to survive and compete with AI.
However, the public response to Neuralink’s progress has been mixed. While some are excited about the potential benefits of the technology, others have expressed concerns about the idea of having an artificial chip in their heads. After Neuralink announced FDA clearance for its first human clinical study, many people on social media expressed reluctance toward the technology.
Despite the challenges and public scrutiny, Neuralink’s progress represents a significant step forward in the field of brain-implant technology. If successful, the technology could potentially revolutionize the treatment of various severe conditions and even enable web browsing and telepathy, according to Musk
(Additional reporting provided by Benzinga Newsbot)
Edited by Eunice Anyango Oyule and Joseph Hammond