The Allegations Against Neuralink: A Detailed Examination

The Allegations Against Neuralink: A Detailed Examination
The Allegations Against Neuralink: A Detailed Examination

Elon Musk, renowned entrepreneur and CEO of Neuralink faces fresh allegations of potential securities fraud. These allegations stem from statements Musk made concerning the deaths of primates used for research at his biotech startup, Neuralink. This article will thoroughly examine these allegations and the potential implications for Neuralink's future.

Where do we draw the line between innovation and ethics in pursuing scientific advancement?

A Controversial Claim

In recent correspondence to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a medical ethics group has called for an investigation into Musk's claims. The claims in question pertain to the deaths of monkeys during trials at Neuralink. Musk stated that these monkeys were terminally ill and did not die due to the Neuralink implants. However, the ethics group alleges that complications from implant procedures were the actual cause of their deaths.

The Contradictory Evidence

Public records and interviews paint a different picture of Neuralink's animal research than Musk's. Documents containing veterinary records suggest that many of Neuralink’s primate subjects suffered significantly from implant complications and needed to be euthanized. These records could be the foundation for any potential SEC investigation into Musk’s comments about Neuralink.

Investigations and Implications

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit organization committed to ending live animal testing, has accused Musk of misleading the public about primate deaths. They suggest that Musk's claims were knowingly false and that investors deserve transparency about the safety and marketability of Neuralink’s product.

Neuralink aims to release the first commercially available brain-computer interface for humans. However, this goal could be jeopardized by the ongoing controversy and potential investigations. The SEC has jurisdiction over the sale of any securities, even those offered by privately held companies like Neuralink. This means the outcome of any investigation could have profound implications for the company's future.

Within a year of its founding in March 2017, Neuralink had acquired many animal subjects to test its brain-chip implants. These tests were conducted with the aid of the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC), a federally funded bioresearch facility at UC Davis. Musk’s mission was to revolutionize prosthetics and engineer an implant that allows human brains to communicate wirelessly with artificial devices and even with each other.

Concerns and Complications

Records from UC Davis chronicle a series of complications following surgeries where electrodes were implanted into monkeys’ brains. These complications ranged from bloody diarrhea and partial paralysis to cerebral edema, colloquially known as “brain swelling.”

An example is an experimental surgery that took place in December 2019. An internal part of the device broke off during implantation. The monkey, identified as Animal 20, was observed scratching at the surgical site and pulling at a connector, dislodging part of the device. Subsequent surgery to repair the issue resulted in fungal and bacterial infections, which led to the monkey's euthanization in January 2020.

Questioning Musk's Claims

Musk's assertions that the test subjects were "close to death already" have been challenged by a former Neuralink employee. The ex-employee alleges that this claim is a "straight fabrication.” They pointed out that the monkeys were under observation for a year or more before any surgery. A researcher from the CNPRC also questioned Musk’s claim, stating, "These are pretty young monkeys. It’s hard to imagine these monkeys, who were not adults, were terminal for some reason.”

Future Investigations and Trials

If the SEC chooses to investigate Musk's comments, it won't be the first federal probe linked to Neuralink’s animal testing. In December 2022, the US Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General launched an investigation into Neuralink’s treatment of some animal test subjects. In February 2023, the US Department of Transportation investigated Neuralink over allegations of unsafe transport of antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

Despite these controversies, Neuralink secured approval from the Food and Drug Administration for human trials in May. The company recently announced that it had received permission to begin a study to enable people with paralysis to control a computer keyboard or cursor with their thoughts.

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Arya Chandran

Arya Chandran

Greetings! My name is Arya, and science is my passion. Ever since my school days, I have been captivated by the world of exact sciences, and my interest in the subject has only grown stronger with time. I find great joy in exploring the intricacies of physics, mathematics, biology, and other fascinating fields of study. It would be my pleasure to embark on a scientific journey with you, where we can delve deeper into the wonders of the natural world together.