Neuralink, the brain implant startup founded by Elon Musk, has discreetly secured an additional $43 million in funding.

Tue Nov 28, 2023 - 8:20am GMT+0000

Neuralink, the company co-founded by Elon Musk, which is focused on developing implantable chips capable of reading brain waves, recently secured an additional $43 million in venture capital, as reported in an SEC filing.

This filing, disclosed this week, reveals an augmentation of the prior funding round, initially led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, which was raised from $280 million to $323 million back in early August. According to the filing, a total of thirty-two investors participated in this funding extension.

While Neuralink has not publicly disclosed its current valuation in recent times, it was reportedly valued at approximately $5 billion in June, based on privately-executed stock transactions.

Founded in 2016, Neuralink has pioneered a device akin to a sewing machine, capable of implanting ultra-thin threads into the brain. These threads connect to a custom-designed chip containing electrodes capable of extracting information from groups of neurons.

The concept of brain-signal-reading implants is not new, but Neuralink’s innovation centers on making these implants wireless and increasing the number of electrodes that can be implanted.

In May, Neuralink obtained FDA approval for human clinical trials, following a previous rejection, and initiated its first human trials, operating under an investigational device exemption by the FDA.

However, Neuralink has come under heightened scrutiny due to allegations of a toxic workplace culture and questionable research practices by its critics.

In a January 2022 article in Fortune, former employees, who chose to remain anonymous, described a workplace characterized by a “culture of blame and fear,” where Musk would frequently bypass management by encouraging junior employees to communicate issues and complaints directly to him. By August 2020, only three of the original eight founding scientists remained at the company, as internal conflicts and the clash between ambitious timelines and the slow pace of scientific progress took a toll.

In 2022, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) alleged mistreatment of monkeys involved in testing Neuralink hardware, citing psychological distress and chronic infections resulting from surgeries. Reports from Reuters and Wired indicated that the rush to meet Musk’s demands for quick results led to complications during electrode installation, including partial paralysis and brain swelling.

For nearly a year, Neuralink faced a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding potential animal welfare violations. The USDA eventually concluded that there was “no evidence” of animal welfare breaches in the startup’s trials, aside from a self-reported incident in 2019. However, the PCRM contested the findings of the investigation.

In November 2023, U.S. lawmakers called upon the SEC to investigate Neuralink for allegedly omitting information about the deaths of at least twelve animals that had undergone surgery to be fitted with its implants.