According to internal papers and interviews with six current and former workers, Elon Musk’s brain-implant enterprise has stocked its animal-research monitoring board with corporate insiders who may financially gain if the firm fulfills its development objectives.
Organizations conducting experiments on certain species of animals are mandated by federal law to establish such review panels. The panels are responsible for ensuring that all animals are treated humanely, that research is conducted to the highest possible standards, and that data used by regulators to determine whether or not a medicine or medical device is safe for human testing can be trusted.
Experts in animal research and bioethics told Reuters that they are concerned that Musk’s business, Neuralink, may have violated conflict-of-interest legislation designed to safeguard the integrity of their study due to the composition of the panel. Neuralink is undertaking animal tests in order to get authorisation from authorities to begin human trials of a brain chip designed to enable paraplegic individuals to type using just their wits.
From late 2022, 19 of the board’s 22 members were employees of Neuralink. The executive who oversaw Neuralink’s animal-care program served as the board’s chair, and at least eleven other members were employed in animal care or research.
Committees like this are sometimes referred to as “institutional animal care and use committees” (IACUCs). Experts in animal research and bioethics have noted that it is unusual for IACUCs to include individuals who stand to gain financially from the study’s results. The difficulty of assigning workers to such panels is especially acute for young companies like Neuralink.