Neuralink—billionaire Elon Musk’s brain-implant company—announced Tuesday it received approval from an independent review board and hospital to begin its first in-human clinical trial for a chip that is implanted in one’s brain to control movement, and is now recruiting participants.
- Neuralink’s “Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface” (PRIME) study, has been working to create a fully implantable, wireless brain-computer interface that could enable people with paralysis to use devices with their thoughts.
- The study received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in May, after previously testing its devices on animals.
- The company is now recruiting participants who have “quadriplegia due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,” or ALS, are at least 22 years old and “have a reliable caregiver” to participate in a trial that will evaluate safety of the chip.
- According to the study brochure, it will take about six years to complete: Participants will have nine at-home and in-person visits for the first 18 months, then 20 visits spread over five years for follow-up, and will have twice weekly research sessions for the duration of the study.
- In the trial, a robot will be used to surgically place the implant’s “ultra-fine and flexible threads” into the brain—from there, the implant is supposed to “record and transmit brain signals wirelessly to an app that decodes movement intention,” according to Neuralink.
$5 billion. That’s how much Neuralink was valued at in a series of June stock trades, according to Reuters. Two years ago, the private company was worth closer to $2 billion.
Neuralink was quietly founded in 2016, and worked for three years before showing its developments in 2019. It has been developing not only the implant—which Musk has described as a “Fitbit in your skull”—but also the R1 robot, and an app to decode brain signals recorded by the implant and allow users to “control a computer with your thoughts.”
Last November, Musk predicted the company was six months away from trials, but the FDA rejected its proposal in March before approving it in May.
In December 2022, Reuters reported that Neuralink was under federal investigation for animal welfare violations and rushing testing in a way that caused “needless suffering and deaths.” Then, in February, there were reports that the company was also under investigation by the Department of Transportation for allegedly packing and moving contaminated hardware in an unsafe way, according to CNBC.
Forbes estimates that Musk’s net worth is $263.8 billion as of Tuesday, mostly due to his stakes in Tesla and SpaceX, making him the richest person in the world.
This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.