Neuralink is creating a brain implant that it thinks will allow paralyzed individuals to walk again, but whistleblowers claim that animal research at its labs is not in accordance with industry standards. According to a report, Elon Musk‘s medical company is being investigated for suspected animal welfare violations, with 1,500 animal deaths in four years.
According to Reuters, Neuralink employees have complained internally that animal testing is being rushed, resulting in unnecessary suffering and deaths. According to records obtained by the news agency, 280 sheep, pigs, and monkeys have died as a result of trials since 2018.
According to Reuters, 25 pigs were implanted with devices that were the wrong size in one example, an error that may have been averted with more planning.
Earlier this year, a Neuralink executive allegedly distributed a news item to employees about Swiss researchers who produced an electrical device that allowed a man to walk again.
He wrote: “In general, we are simply not moving fast enough. It is driving me nuts!”
According to Reuters, Musk ordered employees on many occasions to imagine they had a bomb strapped to their heads in order to push them to move faster. The total number of animal deaths does not necessarily imply that Neuralink is breaking any laws or following standard research procedures.
Many corporations routinely use animals in tests to advance human healthcare, and they are under financial pressure to bring treatments to market as soon as possible. When the studies are finished, the animals are usually slaughtered so that they can be examined post-mortem for research purposes.
However, current and former Neuralink personnel claim that the number of animal deaths is more than necessary.
The San Francisco-based company had sought FDA approval for the Neuralink project, which saw scientists build a small implant with over 3,000 electrodes tied to flexible threads about a tenth the size of a hair and capable of monitoring roughly 1,000 neurons.
Mr. Musk stated at the time of its launch that they had three pigs with two coin-sized implants apiece and that they were “healthy, happy, and indistinguishable from a normal pig.”
The apparent flaws in Neuralink’s testing have raised concerns about the integrity of data gathered from research, potentially delaying plans to initiate human trials.
However, according to some Reuters employees, the organization treats animals rather well when compared to other research facilities, with animals given the freedom to roam in what has been called a “Monkey Disneyland.”
According to one former Neuralink employee, Musk detested using animals for research but wanted to ensure they were “the happiest animals” while living.