Neuralink hopes to have first its human trials next year pending FDA approval

(Credit: NeuraLink)

Elon Musk appeared for a short but productive interview at the Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) CEO Council Summit on Tuesday, December 7. Musk provided updates on each of his companies’ most interesting projects, including Tesla’s Cybertruck, SpaceX’s Starship, and Neuralink’s brain implant. 

The CEO of many forward-thinking companies seemed very optimistic about Neuralink in particular and its potential in the future. At the summit, Musk stated that Neuralink hopes to start human trials in 2022, pending FDA approval. 

“We hope to have this in our first humans, which will be people who have severe spinal cord injuries like tetraplegics, quadriplegics next year pending FDA approval. And, I should say, our standards for implanting the device are substantially higher than what the FDA requires. Just as our standards for safety with Tesla are much higher than what the US government requires,” the Neuralink CEO said. 

Tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, is a form of paralysis that affects both arms and legs. Tetraplegia-causing injury can vary in severity. Neuralink has created a device called the N1 Link, intended to help patients like those who are tetraplegic.

The N1 Link is a 1024 channel device that Neuralink made for patients’ therapeutic use. Once the device is implanted into a patient’s brain, it is expected to invisibly transmit data via a wireless connection. Neuralink demoed the outcome of a successfully implanted N1 Link in its video featuring a Macaque monkey named Pager, playing Pong with his mind.

Elon Musk is cautiously optimistic about the N1 Link’s future. He believes Neuralink’s device could help people with severe spinal cord injuries. 

“I think it’s something pretty cool, and I do want to say that I’m very, emphasis on cautiously, optimistic about this. I think we have a chance with Neuralink of being able to restore full body functionality to someone who has a spinal cord injury.

“Meaning, I think we have a chance—I emphasize a chance—of being able to allow someone who cannot walk or use their arms to be able to walk again naturally. It’s a super big deal, and I don’t want to raise hopes unreasonably. But I’m increasingly convinced that this can be done,” Musk said. 

For now, Neuralink is focusing on the N1 Link’s potential to help quadriplegics regain their digital freedom by giving them the ability to interact with their computers or phones in a high bandwidth and naturalistic way. In July, the company announced a Series C funding round of $205 million, which will take the N1 Link to market. Part of the funds will also accelerate research and development in other products.

Elon Musk’s short-term goal for Neuralink is to help people with brain injuries. Neuralink’s long-term goal is to reduce AI risk to humanity. 

Watch Elon Musk’s WSJ interview below!

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Maria Merano: Veteran writer and editor, who believes harmony between tech and nature is achievable. We just need to learn to compromise.
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