Neuralink allegedly rushes research, killing thousands of animals unnecessarily
According to an exclusive report by Reuters, the medical device company Neuralink, owned by Elon Musk, is reportedly under federal investigation for possible animal welfare violations. The investigation comes from internal staff complaints that its animal testing is being rushed, resulting in needless suffering and deaths.
However, it is important to note that Neuralink has a robust commitment to animal welfare within its organization.
According to Reuters, they have received and reviewed documents and spoken to "sources familiar with the investigation" that, they claim, support the complaints.
In case you didn't know, Neuralink Corporation is working on brain implant technology that could help people with paralysis walk again and heal certain neurological diseases.
What is the claim against Neuralink about animal welfare violations?
Two people who know about the investigation told Reuters that a federal prosecutor asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General to start the secretive federal investigation. One of the people said that the investigation was mostly about breaking the Animal Welfare Act, which states that some animals can be used in research and testing.
According to Reuters, the investigation started at a time of growing employee discontent regarding Neuralink's animal testing, including complaints that pressure from CEO Elon Musk to accelerate development has resulted in failed experiments.
The workers assert that more animals were utilized in testing and perished since such unsuccessful trials had to be performed. Emails, reports, presentations, audiotapes, chats, and previously unreleased messages are among the documents kept by the company.
Reuters says it does not know the scope of the federal investigation or whether it concentrated on the same alleged problems with animal research mentioned by employees in Reuters interviews. Neuralink and Federal authorities did not respond to Reuter's requests for information either.
Is it illegal in the U.S. to experiment on animals?
In the United States, there are no restrictions on the number of animals companies can use for research. Experts have considerable discretion about when and how to employ animals in experiments. Neuralink has reportedly cleared all USDA inspections of its facilities, according to regulatory records reviewed by Reuters.
Whatever your views on this practice, it is a vital step in developing pharmaceuticals or medical devices without risking human lives.
However, according to other documents reviewed by Reuters and "sources with personal knowledge" of the company's methods for testing animals, more than 1,500 animals, including more than 280 lambs, pigs, and monkeys, have been "murdered" by the company since 2018.
According to the sources, who described the figure as an approximation, the company does not keep precise data on the number of animals tested and killed. Neuralink also utilized rats and mice in their research.
That being said, the overall number of animals killed does not imply that Neuralink is conducting its testing illegally or violating ethical standards. Animals are frequently used in research by many companies to improve human healthcare, and these companies are under financial pressure to release cures as soon as feasible.
In fact, as Reuters pointed out, lab animals are frequently put to death when tests are complete, so they can later be dissected for research.
This is, sadly, a vital part of the research process.
However, current and former Neuralink employees assert that unnecessary animal deaths occur due to Musk's demands for rapid research. Reuters identified four studies involving 86 pigs and two monkeys tainted by errors in recent years, according to employee interviews and business conversations spanning years.
Animal testing was rushed at Neuralink, employees claim
According to three current and former staff, the flaws diminished the research value of the experiments and forced their recurrence, resulting in the death of additional animals. The three people attributed the mistakes to a testing team's lack of preparation while working in a pressure-cooker environment.
According to a message received by Reuters, a staffer bitterly complained to coworkers early this year about the need to adjust how the company handles animal surgery to stop "hack jobs." According to the employee, the tight schedule forced employees to work frantically to fulfill deadlines and make last-minute alterations before the operation, which increased the dangers to the animals.
Current and former employees claim that Musk has put a lot of pressure on Neuralink to accelerate its development, which is heavily dependent on animal studies.
Allegedly, Musk told staff workers to imagine having a bomb strapped to their heads to motivate them to work more rapidly, according to three insiders who have frequently overheard Musk commenting. An ex-employee who overheard Musk's remark claims that he once threatened to bring about a "market failure" at Neuralink if they didn't make further strides. Some employees saw this remark as a threat to halt business operations.
Five individuals involved in Neuralink's animal experimentation told Reuters that worries had been raised internally. They asserted to have argued in support of a more traditional testing approach in which researchers would conduct animal studies one component at a time, draw relevant conclusions, and then go on to other animal tests.
They claimed that Neuralink does tests in quick succession as opposed to correcting errors in earlier experiments or rendering a verdict. The result: Because the procedure requires more testing, more animals are used for testing and killed overall.
When a former employee asked management for more thorough testing some years ago, a senior official allegedly informed him it wasn't possible, given Musk's expectations for speed. According to Reuters, two staff left the company due to reservations over animal studies.
Three current or former workers asserted that internal worries about the data quality were raised due to the problems with Neuralink's testing. Such problems might delay the company from starting human trials, which Musk has said the company plans to do within the next six months.
The outcome of the probe should be enlightening, either way
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration assesses the company's requests for approval of its medical device and associated trials. However, the Animal Welfare Act of the USDA governs how the business treats research animals.
Currently, these claims remain just those claims, but the outcome of the Federal probe will, hopefully, provide an unbiased and "scientific" look at Neuralink's practices.
With recent events like Musk's takeover of Twitter and many claims from former employees, this could be a case of unsubstantiated attempts to undermine Mr. Musk personally and Neuralink as an organization.
Of course, we can't be sure at present.