Why is Elon Musk's company Neuralink facing federal investigation?

Dristi Sharma
Dristi SharmaDec 06, 2022 | 18:41

Why is Elon Musk's company Neuralink facing federal investigation?

Musk's company, Neuralink, hasn't received FDA approval yet. Photo: dailyO

Elon Musk, the world's richest man, is now facing federal charges. This is not for his Twitter shenanigans; but for his other company, Neuralink, a medical device company, which is accused of animal-welfare violations. 

Why? The federal investigation comes after Elon Musk's employees from Neuralink (who he hasn't fired, unlike at Twitter) claimed there were animal-welfare violations in his company. 

At least 20 former and current employees have launched this complaint and according to them, as reported by Reuters, animal testing is being rushed by Musk, causing needless suffering and deaths of animals. 

  • Since 2018, the company has killed about 1,500 animals, including more than 280 sheep, pigs and monkeys. 

However, we need to remember this, that Musk's company is not the only company that kills animals for experiments. There are several companies that kill animals to analyse their post-mortem reports.

So, what is the problem? According to Musk's employees, the problem is when he pressures his employees to work extremely fast, in order to increase the productivity of the company, Reuters reported. (Also, US laws don't state anything about the number of animals you can kill while developing a medical product.) 

However, the number of animals killed during such experiments in other companies is extremely low. 

This pressure cooker environment that Musk has created for his employees at Neuralink (in all his companies actually), causes two things:

  • Leads to mistakes in the experiments, and
  • more animals are killed to complete the experiments. 

On one occasion a few years ago, Musk told employees he would trigger a "market failure" at Neuralink unless they made more progress, according to a former employee. 


But what does Neuralink do? 

  • Neuralink, co-founded by Musk and a group of engineers in 2016, is developing a brain chip interface that can be implanted within the skull, allowing disabled patients to move and communicate again, as well as restore their vision.


  • The Neuralink gadget contains a chip that processes and transmits nerve signals that can be sent to devices such as a computer or a phone.
  • The company expects that a person's thoughts will be able to control a mouse, keyboard, or other computer tasks such as text messaging. Neuralink also hopes that its gadget will one day be able to restore neural activity within the body, allowing those with spinal cord injuries to move their limbs.
  • It also aims to cure neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's and dementia. 

But, above all to start human trials, Neuralink needs FDA approval, which it hasn't received yet, even though the paperwork was completed six months ago. 

Dive deeper: To understand Neuralink's condition, let's compare it with its rival Synchron, which was also launched in 2016 and aims to help paralysed people text and type by thinking. 

Photo: Synchron device

Synchron has already received human-trial approval from the FDA, has proved successful on two people, and has killed 80 sheep as a part of its experiment.

  • In August 2022, Musk wanted to invest in Synchron (which the company politely declined). 

Bottomline: The company that Musk trusts so much that he is ready to get a chip implanted into his own head (he said this during one of Neuralink's events) hasn't even received FDA approval and is now facing federal investigation. What the future holds for Neuralink can be only said once the federal investigation is completed.

Last updated: December 06, 2022 | 18:41
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