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Neuralink, Elon Musk’s Start-Up, Raises $280 Million for Its Brain Implants

Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface startup, has just raised $280 million for its brain implant technology. Initially, Neuralink aims to treat Alzheimer’s and paralysis. It will then focus on enhancing human capabilities. Clinical trials have also been recently approved, allowing it to move onto the next stage of testing after extensive animal trials in the laboratory.



Neuralink representation

By the end of May, the company had received the green light from US health authorities to conduct initial clinical trials on humans. It aspires to treat conditions like Alzheimer’s, blindness, and paralysis and, later, to enhance human capabilities.

Neuralink couldn’t have timed it better. Just over two months after gaining permission to test its brain implants on humans, the start-up founded by Elon Musk formally announced on Tuesday, August 8th, a fundraising of $280 million. This operation was led by Founders Fund, the venture capital firm of renowned transhumanist Peter Thiel.

Since its establishment in 2016, Neuralink has amassed $643 million, with about a quarter contributed by Elon Musk. Its valuation was not specified. However, according to Reuters, its executives were aiming for a valuation of $7 billion in June, a few weeks after the approval given by the FDA, the US health authorities.

Neuralink Is Enhancing Human Capabilities

Neuralink aims to design a brain-computer interface using a small implant, the size of a small coin, equipped with thousands of electrodes. The initial applications are expected to be medical. Elon Musk pledges, for instance, to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and also to address blindness and paralysis. These claims, however, have raised numerous concerns within the scientific community.

The billionaire then plans to launch “consumer” applications, but “not before 2025.” The goal will be to augment human abilities, he explains, such as enabling one to control a machine or to upload one’s thoughts directly to a computer via the Neuralink interface, and thus communicate with another human. “We won’t need to verbalize our thoughts anymore,” he anticipates.

Neuralink to Commence Clinical Trials

Since 2017, Neuralink has been conducting tests on monkeys and pigs. However, progress has been slower than hoped. The methods used are also reportedly under investigation for animal abuse. Last year, an association claimed that only seven of the 23 monkeys used in trials between 2017 and 2020 had survived.

After several rejections, the company eventually received approval at the end of May to conduct clinical trials with Neuralink. This was a significant step, especially since the FDA had previously raised, as per Reuters, numerous issues, such as the battery’s reliability and the risks associated with the implantation, a notably invasive procedure that requires drilling a hole in the skull.

Since then, Neuralink has launched a volunteer recruitment campaign limited to patients suffering from paraplegia, blindness, deafness, and aphasia. However, it has not committed to a specific timeline.


(Featured image by Hal Gatewood via Unsplash)

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Michael Jermaine Cards is a business executive and a financial journalist, with a focus on IT, innovation and transportation, as well as crypto and AI. He writes about robotics, automation, deep learning, multimodal transit, among others. He updates his readers on the latest market developments, tech and CBD stocks, and even the commodities industry. He does management consulting parallel to his writing, and has been based in Singapore for the past 15 years.