The reports that have come out on Neuralink's treatment of monkeys have been grim. Accounts of ruptured brains and drawn out deaths have haunted all that have read them, bringing immense scrutiny to the biotech company.
Now, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is being pressured by lawmakers to investigate Neuralink founder and owner Elon Musk, who may have misled investors by not revealing the grisly effects of its brain implants in primates.
Wired reports that four members of the House of Representatives accused Musk today of issuing false statements in September regarding the deaths of a dozen macaque monkeys during Neuralink trials conducted between 2018 and 2020.
For Musk and company, the timing of the move couldn't be worse. In September, Neuralink announced that it was seeking volunteers for human trials. But with all the behind-the-scenes details that have emerged, and possibly this latest pressure on federal regulators, whether the human trials will proceed unhindered becomes less certain.
The representatives, Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Tony Cardenas (D-CA), argue that Musk committed securities fraud by obfuscating the legality of the Neuralink trials to investors.
They point to a post on X-formerly-Twitter that Musk made in September, in which he claimed that all the monkeys that perished were "terminal" cases that were "close to death already," asserting that none of them "died as a result of a Neuralink implant."
"Mr. Musk knows this statement is false," the representatives told SEC head Gary Gensler, as quoted by Wired.
Their claims are backed up by the details of the Wired investigations, released in September and October. An ex-Neuralink employee told the magazine that Musk's claim that the monkeys were terminal was "ridiculous" and a "straight up fabrication."
"We had these monkeys for a year or so before any surgery was performed," the ex-employee said.
An anonymous scientist who worked at the primate center where Neuralink conducted its trials said that all the monkeys were young and likely healthy.
"It's hard to imagine these monkeys, who were not adults, were terminal for some reason," they told the magazine.
If there's any truth to what we've learned about Neuralink's treatment of animals, the representatives argue that these details directly bear on "the safety and marketability of Neuralink's brain-computer interface," as quoted by Wired.
By withholding this information to investors, Musk may have even violated an SEC rule regarding public information on the company's activities.
Musk does have a history of misleading investors, and indeed run-ins with the SEC, Wired notes. In 2018, the federal regulator charged him with securities fraud for declaring on Twitter, no less, that he might be taking Tesla private. The case was ended in a settlement totaling $40 million in fines for Musk.
We'll have to see if the SEC will decide to take action once again. For now, Neuralink is proceeding as if nothing's happened, readying up its robots that will be tasked with performing brain implant surgery into humans — and God knows what will come of that.
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