FREMONT, Calif. (KRON) — Neuralink, a medical-device company based in Fremont and owned by Elon Musk, is under investigation after a physicians group claimed the company had violated hazardous materials rules, according to a letter sent to Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg.
In the letter dated Feb. 9, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine requested that DOT open an investigation into Neuralink for potential “violations of the federal hazardous material transportation law.” The department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is conducting the investigation.
The concerns stem from a partnership that Neuralink built with UC Davis, wherein the company aimed to develop an “implantable brain-machine interface,” according to PCRM. Between May 2017 and December 2020 at UC Davis, Neuralink employees performed “invasive, exploratory brain studies in rhesus macaques, resulting in many animals suffering chronic infections, paralysis, seizures, and other debilitating or deadly side effects,” PCRM writes.
According to emails obtained by PCRM in a public-records request, the PCRM believes that materials transported by the company could have contained antibiotic-resistant pathogens including Staphylococcus and Klebsiella, which the US Centers for Disease Control says can cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections and meningitis. Some materials may have been contaminated with Corynebacterium ulcerans, which can cause diphtheria, a fatal illness. Some of the materials also came from monkey skulls that could have been infected with bacterial meningitis or Herpes B.
The committee states that the “unsafe handling” could have occurred “due to the failure of the Neuralink employees to undergo legally required safety training.” PCRM claims that the neurosurgeon responsible for the ongoing experiments when the potential violations may have occurred is still working for the company now.
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This isn’t the first time Neuralink and the PCRM have crossed paths. In 2022, the committee alleged that Neuralink had violated the Animal Welfare Act when using animals to test its technology. In a public letter dated Feb. 14, 2022, Neuralink dismissed the claims, and stated that the “accusations come from people who oppose any use of animals in research.”
At Neuralink, we are absolutely committed to working with animals in the most humane and ethical way possible.Neuralink
In December 2022, Musk livestreamed a “show and tell” presentation and stated that his team is asking US regulators to test the brain implant on people. He told the audience he believes the company could be ready for an implant in a human brain as a part of a clinical trial in roughly six months.
The Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is conducting the investigation. A request for comment sent to Neuralink was not immediately returned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.