Neuralink, Elon Musk’s startup launched in 2016, has fallen behind the competition. Synchron, which is developing its own brain-machine interface technology, obtained regulatory approvals from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2021 to test its chip on humans. Neuralink thought it could start its trials in 2022, but still does not have the authorizations. Faced with this situation, Elon Musk would be in discussion with the leaders of Synchron to invest in the company.
Elon Musk would be frustrated by the slow progress of his startup
Neuralink employees who testified anonymously to Reuters do not specify if this investment will involve a collaboration between the two companies, but Elon Musk would have started negotiations with Thomas Oxley, CEO of Synchron. Internally, the Tesla boss reportedly expressed frustration that the Neuralink implant still hasn’t been cleared by the FDA to conduct human trials. This would have pushed him to explore other horizons.
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Synchron has had FDA clearances since 2021, allowing it last month to implant its chip in a patient for the first time in the United States. The company also conducted tests on four people in Australia. Unlike Neuralink’s implant, Synchron’s can be installed without having to open the patient’s skull. The purpose of this technology is to make life easier for paralyzed people by offering them a way to control electronic devices with their thoughts.
During negotiations with Synchron, Elon Musk would not have expressed his frustrations with the slow progress of Neuralink. The rival company has not yet given a response to the proposal of the American billionaire, who in 2020 would have made a similar offer to the brain technology company Paradromics.
Neuralink is not unanimous
Neuralink is not in its best shape. Elon Musk and Dongjin Seo, implant engineer and director of Neuralink, are the only ones of the eight founders of the startup to still be present. Former Neuralink CEO Max Hodak, who left his post in 2021, is now one of Synchron’s investors.
In the absence of being able to experiment on humans, the company of Elon Musk has multiplied the tests on animals. In 2020, the company demonstrated a working brain-machine interface for the first time via an implant in the brain of a sow. She also continued her experiments on monkeys. A practice that had sparked controversy because several guinea pigs had died of a cerebral hemorrhage following the placement of the implants. The stated objective of being able to save the memories also leaves some scientists perplexed.