The brain chip company founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is prepared to begin human clinical trials.
Musk, who co-founded Neuralink in 2016, claims that the technology will “will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs.”
The Silicon Valley firm, which has already implanted artificial intelligence microchips in the brains of a macaque monkey named Pager and a pig named Gertrude, is now looking for a “clinical trial director” to oversee human trials.
“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,” according to the job posting in Fremont, California. “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.”
Musk, the world’s richest man with a worth of $256 billion, stated last month that he was cautiously optimistic that the implants would allow tetraplegics to walk again.
“We hope to have this in our first humans, which will be people that have severe spinal cord injuries like tetraplegics, quadriplegics, next year, pending FDA [Food and Drug Administration] approval,” he told the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council summit.
“I think we have a chance with Neuralink to restore full-body functionality to someone who has a spinal cord injury. Neuralink’s working well in monkeys, and we’re actually doing just a lot of testing and just confirming that it’s very safe and reliable and the Neuralink device can be removed safely.”
Musk, on the other hand, has a history of overpromising about the company’s progress. He anticipated that by 2020, the device would be installed into a human skull.
Musk said the device would be “implanted flush with skull & charges wirelessly, so you look and feel totally normal”.
People should think of the technology as “replacing faulty/missing neurons with circuits,” according to him. “Progress will accelerate when we have devices in humans (hard to have nuanced conversations with monkeys) next year,” he stated.
A video showing a monkey implanted with the chip playing the video game Pong using only its mind was previously released by Neuralink.
The startup, which has a number of well-known Silicon Valley investors including Google’s parent company Alphabet, is also looking for a “clinical trial coordinator” to help build a team of people to run the trial and liaise with regulators. Applicants are told they have the “opportunity to change the world and work with some of the smartest and the most talented experts from different fields”.