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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Is Elon Musk eyeing investment in Neuralink’s rival Synchron?

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Looks like Elon Musk is considering investing in Synchron, a competitor to Neuralink. Elon Musk’s alleged investment offer may have been inspired by Synchron’s recent advancements, according to Neuralink employees, who claim he has “expressed frustration” to the startup’s team over its slow progress to date.

Elon Musk revealed his latest high-tech venture in 2019, unveiling plans for an implanted brain chip capable of tracking and stimulating neurological activity at the same time, essentially offering “a Fitbit in your skull.” Though Musk stated in his 2019 introduction to Neuralink that the startup’s brain-computer interface (BCI) technology would be implanted in humans by the end of 2020—a timeline that was later pushed to this year—that goal has yet to be met. Synchron, a Brooklyn-based startup, has already begun implanting its own BCIs in a U.S. clinical trial with the FDA’s approval, the company announced last month.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and that appears to be the basis for a Friday media report claiming Musk has approached Synchron about a potential investment. According to the media, the report was received from four unnamed persons “familiar with the subject.”

They stated that Musk had contacted Synchron founder and CEO Thomas Oxley about a potential transaction, but they did not specify whether it would include a cooperation between Synchron and Neuralink or merely financial backing from Musk.

A Synchron spokesman declined to comment on the speculation, and Neuralink did not reply to a request for comment from Fierce Medtech.

The exact date of Musk and Oxley’s claimed chat is unknown, however both tech leaders were in attendance as prominent speakers at the 2022 TED Conference in Vancouver in April. Max Hodak, one of the co-founders of Neuralink—and its previous president—announced earlier this year that he’d accepted an advising role with and invested in Synchron, which may have piqued Musk’s interest.

Hodak didn’t name Neuralink in his February blog post announcing the upgrade, but he did say, “Synchron is clearly among the most serious groups working on next-generation brain interfaces.”

Meanwhile, Synchron has spent the previous year pushing forward with its objective to restore paralyzed people’s capacity to speak and conduct other everyday duties.

Unlike other BCI systems, Synchron’s stentlike device is inserted through the jugular vein in a few hours, rather than requiring open-brain surgery or any drilling into the skull.

Four people paralyzed by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis were able to use the system to translate their thoughts into typing and cursor clicks in an Australian study that began in 2019, allowing them to send texts, emails, and even tweets, access online banking and shopping services, complete telehealth visits, and more.

Those advancements may have also influenced Musk’s alleged investment offer, according to four current and former Neuralink employees, who claim that Musk has “expressed frustration” to the startup’s team over its slow progress to date. We are excited to support what is developing as a neo-healthcare delivery system in emerging economies for situations where the care value chain is fundamentally broken by integrating technology and data across a complete stack offering.”

In October 2020, the firm secured $3.08 million in an early fundraising round.

Chiratae Ventures, Sequoia India, Lenskart’s Peyush Bansal, Snapdeal’s Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, and others have invested.

Since May 2021, the firm claims to have expanded 60X, with a 12X increase in the number of service providers on its network. 

After receiving FDA approval last year, it just launched a human study of its Stentrode device in the United States. Unlike other BCI systems, Synchron’s stentlike device is inserted through the jugular vein in a few hours, rather than requiring open-brain surgery or any drilling into the skull.

Four people paralyzed by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis were able to use the system to translate their thoughts into typing and cursor clicks in an Australian study that began in 2019, allowing them to send texts, emails, and even tweets, access online banking and shopping services, complete telehealth visits, and more.

Those advancements may have also influenced Musk’s alleged investment offer, according to four current and former Neuralink employees, who claim that Musk has “expressed frustration” to the startup’s team over its slow progress to date. We are excited to support what is developing as a neo-healthcare delivery system in emerging economies for situations where the care value chain is fundamentally broken by integrating technology and data across a complete stack offering.”

In October 2020, the firm secured $3.08 million in an early fundraising round.

Chiratae Ventures, Sequoia India, Lenskart’s Peyush Bansal, Snapdeal’s Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, and others have invested.

Since May 2021, the firm claims to have expanded 60X, with a 12X increase in the number of service providers on its network.

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