Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brain implant startup, quietly raises an additional $43M

NeuralinkThe company founded by Elon Musk that develops implantable chips that can read brain waves, has raised an additional $43 million in venture capital, according to a FILING with the SEC.

A filing published this week shows the company raised an earlier tranche, led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, from $280 million to $323 million in early August. Thirty-two investors participated, according to the filing.

Neuralink did not disclose its valuation recently. But in June, Reuters reported that the company is valued at about $5 billion after privately executed stock trades.

Founded in 2016, Neuralink has developed a sewing machine-like device capable of implanting ultra-thin threads inside the brain. The threads are attached to a custom-designed chip with electrodes that can read information from groups of neurons.

Brain signal reading implants are a decades-old technology. But the real innovation of Neuralink is in making the implants wireless and increasing the number of implanted electrodes.

In May, Neuralink received FDA approval for human clinical trials after its application was previously rejected, and opened its first human trials for recruitment under an investigational device exemption in FDA.

But Neuralink has come under increased scrutiny for what critics say is a toxic workplace culture — and poor research ethics.

In January 2022 article to Fortune, anonymous former employees described a “culture of blame and fear” — one where Musk often undermined management by encouraging junior employees “to email issues and complain to him directly.” By August 2020, only three of the eight founding scientists remained at the company, the results of a Stat News BITS described as “an internal conflict in which rushing timelines … clash with the slow and growing pace of science.”

In 2022, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) alleged that Neuralink and UC Davis, which was then its research partner, mistreated many monkeys involved in testing Neuralink’s hardware – subjecting them to psychological distress and chronic infections due to operations. Reports from both Reuters and Wired The proposed test was accelerated due to Musk’s demands for fast results, which led to complications with the installation of the electrodes – including partial paralysis and swelling of the brain.

For nearly a year, Neuralink has been under federal investigation by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding animal welfare violations. The USDA ultimately concluded that there was “no evidence” of animal welfare violations in the startup’s trials other than an earlier, self-reported incident from 2019 — but the PCRM disputed the results of the investigation.

In November 2023, US lawmakers asked the SEC to investigate Neuralink for releasing details about the deaths of at least a dozen animals surgically inserted into its implants.

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