Days after an animal rights group filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alleging animal cruelty during experiments, Neuralink has issued a clarification denying the claims.
Founded by Elon Musk, Neuralink is working on an implantable brain chip that will allow recipients to perform tasks using their minds. Last year, the company demonstrated its technology in a macaque monkey who played the computer game Pong without a joystick.
The animal rights group, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), has alleged that Neuralink has conducted "highly invasive head implants" which led to "extreme suffering" in the monkeys who did not receive adequate care.
Claiming proofs that run into 700-odd pages, PCRM has said that as many as 15 monkeys had died after Neuralink's experiments of the 23 they had been given access to. It has also accused that some of the monkeys did not have digits at the time of their death.
The PCRM has accessed this data using public records lawsuit last year and is planning to file another lawsuit against the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), where Neuralink has previously conducted its experiments. Neuralink, however, is not part of this lawsuit, CNN reported.
In a long blog post on its website, Neuralink has accused the PCRM of being against the use of animals in research in any form, even as current regulations require animal tests to be conducted prior to human trials.
The blog post traces the company's short history as it teamed up with UC Davis to access its prestigious California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) in the absence of its own animal facility. The CNPRC gave Neuralink access to monkey cadavers to trial its surgeries and later provided them with monkeys from other research projects that had to be euthanized due to conditions they had developed as part of the research.
Neuralink claims that in the early stages of their project, the monkeys were assigned to Neuralink only on the day of the surgeries after which they were euthanized humanely in their anesthetized state. Any injuries that the monkeys had, including losing digits on their hands, were likely due to aggressive behavior with other monkeys in the facility and not the direct result of Neuralink's experiments.
Reasons for Monkey Deaths
Providing details of the monkeys that were euthanized during its projects, Neuralink said that animal usage was extremely well planned and two monkeys were euthanized to gather scientific data from their brain tissues. In addition to this, six animals were euthanized on the medical advice of the UC Davis staff after surgical complications such as device failure and infections following device implants.
The company has transferred monkeys assigned to its project to its new facility and upgraded its surgical protocols and device design. The improvements have already been demonstrated in the video that the company released last year with a successful implant in a monkey enabling him to play Pong, the company claimed.
Neuralink also claimed at its new facility, the company and its staff have gone beyond the regulatory demands to provide care to its animals and that includes housing, diet, socialization, removing restraints for its research animals, and retiring the animals who do not show an inclination to participate in their research studies.
It also claimed that its facilities meet the requirements as set up by the USDA and Animal Welfare Act.