Elon Musk’s brain chip startup prepares for first ever human trials
A new job posting for a ‘Clinical Trial Director’ at Neuralink reveals that the neurotech startup is preparing to take its brain chip research to the next stage.
Neuralink has already conducted trials on pigs and monkeys, including a successful experiment involving a nine-year-old macaque capable of playing video games using only its mind.
The firm eventually hopes to use the technology to allow “human-AI symbiosis”.
Early human trials, which Mr Musk said last month will take place in 2022, will likely involve people with paralysis using Neuralink’s interface to gain direct neural control of a computer cursor.
The position calls for candidates who are “mission-driven” and “willing and eager to go above and beyond” to achieve the company’s ambitions.
“As the Clinical Trial Director, you’ll work closely with some of the most innovative doctors and top engineers, as well as working with Neuralink’s first Clinical Trial participants!” the job listing, first spotted by Bloomberg, states.
“You will lead and help build the team responsible for enabling Neuralink’s clinical research activities and developing the regulatory interactions that come with a fast-paced and ever-evolving environment.”
In return, Neuralink claims to offer “an opportunity to change the world and work with some of the smartest and the most talented experts from different fields”.
The first practical applications of Neuralink’s technology will involve treating people with brain disorders and diseases, according to Mr Musk, who says it will “solve important brain and spine problems with a seamlessly implanted device.”
The tech billionaire, who also heads SpaceX and Tesla, claims that the potential for Neuralink’s brain chip beyond that is almost limitless.
“You could solve blindness, you could solve paralysis, you could solve hearing,” he said during a company presentation in 2020.
“In the future, you’ll be able to save and replay memories. This is increasingly sounding like a Black Mirror episode… Ultimately you could download them into a new body or a robot body.”
He has since claimed that the technology will give people “enhanced abilities”, like being able to stream music directly to their brain.
A 2019 paper written by Neuralink researchers described a brain-computer interface that used an array of “small and flexible electrode ‘threads’”, that are surgically implanted into the brain by a robot.
The device itself is “about the size of a coin” and can apparently replace a piece of the skull without causing any lasting damage to the brain.
Future versions would feature an all-day battery life and would be able to connect wirelessly to a wearer’s smartphone.
The latest job listing is one of 84 postings on Neuralink’s website, which includes roles in robotics, software, animal care and surgery.