Neuralink being investigated for allegedly flouting biohazard rules
Elon Musk's biotechnology company, Neuralink is currently being probed by the Department of Transport for violations of federal laws for the transportation of hazardous materials, Reuters reported. The action was initiated after a non-profit organization obtained records that the company illegally transported devices that may have been contaminated with dangerous pathogens.
Neuralink is Musk's company that has been developing a device that can take instructions from the brain and control a computer. Touted as a boon for people with physical disabilities, the technology has missed its goal to begin human trials in 2020, which has Musk frustrated.
Allegations of illegal handling of pathogens
Neuralink began its journey by teaming up with experts at the University of California, Davis, and demonstrated the potential of its technology with an implant that enabled a monkey to play a game using its brain alone.
Following this achievement, Neuralink had little to showcase and allegedly rushed experiments that caused needless suffering and animal deaths. Interesting Engineering has previously reported that Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an animal rights group, had filed a complaint against Neuralink with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alleging animal cruelty during experiments.
Although Neuralink has denied these charges, it accepted that animals had died during its experiments due to device failures and infections following implants. New data obtained by PCRM through public information requests shows that Neuralink potentially breached regulations for hazardous material transportation in 2019.
As per PCRM's letter sent to the Department of Transportation, Neuralink allegedly transported pathogens on the implants that were removed from the monkeys after improper sanitization and packaging. Records obtained by the group show that this could include organisms such as antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus and herpes B virus, which may have been transported without proper containment measures.
These pathogens, if they had come in contact with humans, could have caused serious health issues such as bloodstream infections, pneumonia, and severe brain damage. So far, PCRM has not identified any harm that may have been caused due to this behavior but cited Neuralink's actions as an "ongoing public health risk".
Calling Neuralink's track record "sloppy", the group against using animals in research asked the DOT to investigate Neuralink and levy appropriate fines. The incident occurred when Neuralink was using UC Davis' facility for its work, a collaboration that has since split ways. The university has maintained that it abides by safety regulations, while Neuralink has not commented on this matter yet.
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