Neuralink wants to tie up with surgical partner who will implant its chips in humans

Elon Musk's company still needs to obtain FDA authorization to proceed.
Ameya Paleja
Neuralink logo in shape of a human face
Neuralink logo in shape of a human face

Nur Photo/Getty 

Elon Musk's biotech company Neuralink which had ambitious plans of implanting its neural interface chips into humans by 2022 is now looking for a surgical partner to team up with to conduct human trials in the first place, a Reuters report said.

Neuralink has been developing brain implants since 2016 which it is confident will be able to help cure individuals with conditions ranging from blindness to paralysis. The company has tested its technology on monkeys and demonstrated it on multiple occasions. However, prior to the wide-scale usage of this technology in humans, it needs to be trialed first and the Elon Musk venture hasn't found a partner to carry out the implantation yet.

Neuralink approaches Arizona Center

As per the Reuters report, Neuralink has approached the Barrow Neurological Institute, a Phoenix, Arizona-based neurological institute, as a potential partner in for its trials but the talks are still ongoing and may not necessarily yield something concrete.

The Barrow Institute is one of the pioneers of brain implants in the U.S. and has helped standardize methods where the patient can remain asleep while the implant is done. With a history of over 175,000 brain implants, a tie-up with the organization would help Neuralink move ahead with its plans.

Neuralink wants to tie up with surgical partner who will implant its chips in humans
Representative image showing an electronic implant for a human

However, the institute's implants are deep brain stimulation devices that are aimed at helping Parkinson's patients reduce tremors, while Neuralink's implant is an interface that communicates with computers, while connected to the brain. No such implant has received FDA approval to be made available in the market so far.

Neuralink's chances to find a suitable partner for human trials may be hindered by the fact that it is currently under investigation by two federal agencies. Last year, The U.S. Department of Agriculture began a probe into allegations that the company had rushed its experiments and caused needless suffering and death of its monkeys.

Interesting Engineering also reported that the Department of Transportation was also investigating the company for its handling of hazardous pathogens between the years 2018 and 2020. The company's partner for animal trials, the University of California, Davis ended the partnership without specifying any reasons in the year 2020.

The company's troubles are further compounded as rival companies seem to be progressing well with their technology. Synchron, which also uses an interfacing implant received FDA approval for trials in 2021 and implanted its first device last year. Elon Musk had also expressed interest in investing in this company earlier.

Neuralink co-founder, Max Hadok, has since moved on to float another company called Science Corp, which uses an interface device but does not need to be surgically implanted, a Gizmodo report said.

Neuralink is also in talks with other science centers in the U.S. while it also tries to convince the FDA to grant approval for its device.

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