UNITED STATES: Neuralink, Elon Musk’s medical device company, is under US federal investigation for potential infractions of animal welfare policies amid complaints from internal staff. As per the reports, animal testing has been hurried after missing multiple deadlines, resulting in unnecessary suffering and deaths.
This comes days after the billionaire said he is comfortable implanting a Neuralink brain chip in himself.
Neuralink Corp. is working to develop a brain implant that it hopes will help paralyzed people regain their ability to walk and treat other neurological conditions.
The federal investigation was recently launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General at the request of a federal prosecutor, claims two sources familiar with the investigation.
The investigation focuses on potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which regulates how researchers handle and test certain animals, one of the sources claims.
One of the workers disclosed that, as the failed experiments were repeated continuously, more
animals were used in testing and died as a result.
The company’s records include emails, reports, presentations, audio recordings, and previously unreported messages.
However, it is unclear whether the whole scope of the probe encompasses the same alleged issues with animal testing that the Neuralink staff member cited.
US regulations don’t specify how many animals businesses can use for research and give scientists significant latitude to choose when and how to use animals in investigations.
Neuralink’s facilities have reportedly passed all USDA inspections, as per the regulatory data.
Since 2018, over 1,500 animals, including more than 280 lambs, pigs, and monkeys, have been put to death as a result of research, the report states.
The sources stated that the figures are an estimate because the business does not keep exact records on the number of animals tested and killed. Neuralink has also used mice and rats in their research.
The report observed that the total number of animal deaths does not necessarily mean that Neuralink is going against the law or using unethical research methods.
Numerous businesses routinely employ animals in research to improve human health care, and they are under financial pressure to launch treatments as soon as possible.
Animals are often put to death following tests so that they can be dissected and studied afterward for scientific research.
However, in this case, some Neuralink staff have raised the alarm that there have been more animal fatalities than necessary due to Elon Musk’s requests to “speed research.”
Recent years have seen four research projects involving 86 pigs and two monkeys ruined by human error.
As a result of the errors, more animals were reported to have died during the tests, and their scientific value was diminished.
Even after failed experiments, Neuralink continues to run tests without resolving the problems or coming to a final conclusion, which leads to more animal deaths.
Such issues might prevent the business from attempting to begin human trials, which Musk has stated the business hopes to undertake within the next six months.
More than a year ago, Neuralink gave its last public demonstration, which featured a monkey with a brain chip that used his thoughts to play a computer game.