Elon Musk acquires brain chip implant developer Synchron Inc. Xi has been approached for a potential investment as his own company Neuralink jumps into the race to connect the human brain directly to machines, according to four people familiar with the matter. Musk reached out to Synchron founder and CEO Thomas Oxley in recent weeks to discuss a potential deal, sources said. It is unclear whether any transaction will involve a tie-up or collaboration between Synchron and Neuralink.
Synchron, based in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is ahead of Neuralink in the process of getting regulatory approval for its equipment, sources said. It has not decided whether it will accept the investment and no deal is in place, the sources said.
The sources requested anonymity because the matter is confidential.
Representatives for Musk and Neuralink did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Synchron declined to comment.
After Musk, who is the CEO of electric car maker Tesla and rocket developer SpaceX, expressed frustration with Neuralink employees about their slow progress, four current and former employees said. This frustration was not communicated to Oxley when Musk contacted him, two of the sources said.
It is unclear where Neuralink stands in its application with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin human trials. An FDA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk said in a 2019 public presentation that Neuralink, which he launched in 2016, aims to receive regulatory approval by the end of 2020. He then said at a Wall Street Journal conference in late 2021 that he hopes to begin human trials this year.
Founded in 2016, Synchron has developed a brain implant that does not require cutting the skull to install it, unlike Neuralink’s product. His goal is to help paralyzed patients operate digital devices with their minds.
Synchron achieved 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 completed a study on four people in Australia.
Synchron has about 60 employees and has raised about $65 million from investors so far, according to market research firm Pitchbook.
Neuralink is large, 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 remain at the company — Musk and implant engineer Dongjin “DJ” Seo, who holds a leadership role. Max Hodak, who stepped down as chairman of Neuralink last year, is now an investor in Synchron.
Musk has previously approached Neuralink’s rivals. In 2020, he held talks with brain technology company Paradromics Inc., according to three people familiar with the matter. Musk later abandoned those talks, two of the sources added.
© Thomson Reuters 2022