Musk Approaches Brain Chip Startup Synchron About Deal Amid Neuralink Delays

Tesla CEO Elon Musk looks on as he visits the Tesla gigafactory construction site in Gruenheide, near Berlin, Germany, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi

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Aug 19 (Reuters) – Elon Musk has approached brain chip implant developer Synchron Inc about a possible investment as his own company Neuralink catches up in the race to connect the human brain directly to machines, according to four people. familiar with the matter.

Musk has contacted Synchron founder and CEO Thomas Oxley in recent weeks to discuss a possible deal, the sources said. It is not clear if any transaction would involve a link or collaboration between Synchron and Neuralink.

Synchron, based in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is ahead of Neuralink in the process of obtaining regulatory clearance for its devices, the sources said. It has not decided whether it would accept an investment and no deal is certain, the sources added.

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The sources requested anonymity because the matter is confidential.

Representatives for Musk and Neuralink did not respond to requests for comment. A Synchron spokesman declined to comment.

The approach comes after Musk, who is also CEO of electric carmaker Tesla Inc. (TSLA.O) and rocket developer SpaceX have expressed frustration with Neuralink employees for their slow progress, four current and former employees said. That frustration did not carry over to Oxley when Musk approached him, two of the sources added.

It is unclear where Neuralink stands on its application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin human trials. An FDA spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Musk said in a 2019 public filing that Neuralink, which he launched in 2016, was aiming to receive regulatory approval by the end of 2020. He then said at a Wall Street Journal conference in late 2021 that he hoped to begin human testing this year. .

Founded in 2016, Synchron has developed a brain implant that would not require cutting through the skull to install, unlike Neuralink’s product. His goal is to help paralyzed patients operate digital devices with just their minds.

Synchron crossed a major milestone last month by implanting its device in a patient in the United States for the first time. It received FDA approval for human trials in 2021 and has completed studies in four people in Australia.

Synchron has about 60 employees and has so far raised about $65 million from investors, according to market research firm Pitchbook.

Neuralink is larger, with 300 employees split between San Francisco and Austin, Texas. It has raised $363 million from investors so far, according to Pitchbook.

Only two of Neuralink’s eight founders have stayed with the company: Musk and implant engineer Dongjin “DJ” Seo, who has a leadership role. Max Hodak, who stepped down as chairman of Neuralink last year, is now an investor in Synchron. read more

Musk has gotten close to Neuralink competitors in the past. In 2020, he held talks with brain technology company Paradromics Inc, according to three people familiar with the matter. Musk subsequently dropped those talks, two of these sources added.

(This story is reintroduced to remove “and” strangers in paragraph 9)

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Reporting by Rachael Levy in Washington Editing by Greg Roumeliotis and Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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