While Elon Musk's fellow billionaires are blasting off into space, his sights are set on curing neurological conditions through his brain-microchip company, Neuralink. Recently, the company raised $205 million to further its mission.
The funding round was led by Vy Capital, a venture capital firm out of Dubai, with participation from Google, Founders Fund, DFJ Growth, Valor Equity Partners, Craft Ventures, Gigafund, and others.
The funds raised in the Series C round will be used to take Neuralink’s first product to market and accelerate the research and development of future products.
Neuralink aims to treat brain-related ailments with microchips.
Musk, who is most known as the founder of the Tesla electric car company and SpaceX, co-founded Neuralink in 2016. The neurotechnology startup's mission is to develop implantable BMI (brain-machine interfaces) in the form of wireless microchips in the brain that can treat various brain-related ailments like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and spinal cord injuries.
Neuralink’s first product, the N1 Link, is designed to help quadriplegics “regain their digital freedom by allowing users to interact with their computers or phones in a high bandwidth and naturalistic way,” the company said in a statement. Once implanted, the invisible1024 channel device transmits data via a wireless connection.
“First @Neuralink product will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs,” Musk tweeted on Apr. 8.
“Later versions will be able to shunt signals from Neuralinks in brain to Neuralinks in body motor/sensory neuron clusters, thus enabling, for example, paraplegics to walk again,” he tweeted. “The device is implanted flush with skull & charges wirelessly, so you look & feel totally normal.”
According to the company website, the implant or “Link” is connected to micron-scale threads inserted in areas of the brain that control movement. A Neuralink phone app would allow the person to control their iOS device, keyboard, and mouse with their brain.
Neuralink is also developlng a robotic system for neurosurgeons to use to implant the devices. Musk envisions the procedure to be done within an hour.
YouTube video demonstrates brain microchip in a pig.
Musk has used YouTube to promote Neuralink and the technology behind it. In August 2020, Neuralink posted a video on YouTube that featured a pig named Gertrude. The company implanted a brain microchip in the pig. The video showed the neural activity that came from the device implanted in the animal.
Neuralink critics question medical claims.
Some people in the neuroscience world aren't impressed with Neuralink’s progress. Most of the company’s medical claims remain highly speculative, the MIT Technology Review wrote in August 2020.
“Despite the long list of medical applications Musk presented, Neuralink didn’t show it’s ready to commit to any one of them. During the event, the company did not disclose plans to start a clinical trial, a surprise to those who believed that would be its next logical step,” wrote the MIT Technology Review.
How can you invest in Neuralink?
Neuralink is a private company with no plans to go public in the foreseeable future.