Neuralink, a firm that makes brain chips, is under investigation by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) because to worries that it may have shipped dangerous infections.
After an animal rights organization wrote a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on Thursday, a DOT spokesperson told Insider that the organization was investigating the problem. The investigation was initially reported by Reuters.
“We have received the request from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and we take these allegations very seriously,” the spokesperson said. “We are conducting an investigation to ensure that Neuralink is in full compliance with federal regulations and keeping their workers and the public safe from potentially dangerous pathogens.”
In a press release on Thursday, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) claimed that it had emails and other documents that suggested there was a chance the business may not have properly packaged the brain implants from its test monkeys before transport in accordance with federal hazmat law. According to PCRM, the papers indicated that it was possible that pathogens, including antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus and Klebsiella, as well as the Herpes B virus, were transported in 2019 without adhering to DOT regulations, including proper sanitization and packing.
Before this article was published, Insider sent a comment request to a Neuralink spokeswoman.
The records date back to Neuralink’s collaboration with the University of California, Davis. The cooperation came to an end in 2020, but PCRM confirmed to Reuters that several of the same employees now work for Musk’s company, including the neurosurgeon in charge of the research on the test animals.
According to a UC Davis spokeswoman, the university adheres to biohazard and lab safety laws.
The animal rights organization has already criticized Neuralink. Regarding Neuralink’s handling of its monkeys, the group sued UC Davis and lodged a complaint with the US Department of Agriculture, according to Insider’s article from the previous year. The monkeys endured “severe pain as a result of inadequate animal care and the highly intrusive experimental head implants during the tests,” PCRM claimed at the time, citing records it had obtained.
In a prior statement, Neuralink refuted some of the group’s claims of damage and declared its “total commitment to dealing with animals in the most humane and ethical way possible.”
In order to create a brain-computer interface, Musk cofounded Neuralink in 2016. The billionaire has previously said that Neuralink’s chips, which are coin-sized gadgets intended to be implanted in the brain through a surgical robot, could one day cure paralysis or grant individuals psychic abilities. He has referred to the device as “a Fitbit in your skull.”
Food and Drug Administration approval for the gadget is still pending.