Neuralink, a company co-founded by Elon Musk, has been working on an implantable brain–machine interface since 2016. While it previously demonstrated its progress by showing a Macaque monkey controlling the cursor in a game of Pong, it has yet to start human trials. Now, according to Reuters, Musk has reached out to rival company Synchron in recent weeks to discuss a potential investment.
It’s unclear what kind of deal Musk has offered — whether it’s a collaboration or a financial investment —since none of the players responded or confirmed the report with the news organization. Reuters’ sources also said that a deal isn’t certain and that Synchron has yet to decide whether to accept Musk’s offer. Apparently, the executive approached Synchron CEO after expressing his frustration to Neuralink staff over the company’s slow progress.
Neuralink announced way back in 2019 that it would seek approval for human trials in 2020. In January of this year, the company started looking for a clinical trial director who would oversee the testing of its medical device on human subjects. However, that has yet to happen, and the FDA has yet to reveal how far along Neuralink is in the process of securing its approval.
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Meanwhile, Synchron announced in July that it had implanted its brain-computer interface into the motor cortex of a human patient in the US for the first time. Doctors in New York’s Mount Sinai West did so as part of the company’s COMMAND trial, which is aiming to examine the safety of Synchron’s implant in patients with severe paralysis. The company also completed a study in Australia, wherein four people were determined to still be safe even after a year with its implant.
Like Neuralink, Synchron is also hoping to provide people with limited mobility the ability to control devices like smartphones and computers with their minds. That will give them the independence to email, text and do various digital tasks. Earlier this year, Max Hodak, the Neuralink co-founder who left the company in 2021, revealed that he took on an advisory role with Synchron. He also financially invested in the company “given [his] excitement for what they’re doing.”
It’s worth noting, though, that Musk reportedly held discussions with other Neuralink rivals in the past. Reuters says he also approached brain-machine interface developer Paradromics in 2020, but those talks were ultimately abandoned.