The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) is investigating Elon Musk’s brain implant company after allegations surfaced that it may have unlawfully transported pathogen-laced devices removed from monkeys.
Neuralink violated federal transportation restrictions by shipping contaminated implants extracted from the brains of deceased study monkeys afflicted with various hazardous infections. The alleged infractions could have exposed humans to dangerous diseases such as drug-resistant bacteria and a possibly life-threatening herpes virus.
In a letter filed to the USDOT, an animal welfare organization, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) expressed concerns, requesting that the agency examine Musk’s company Neuralink “for violations of the federal hazardous material transportation legislation and punish them appropriately.”
The PCRM laid out its evidence for possible violations of hazardous material transportation regulations in a letter addressed to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and William Schoonover, associate administrator of the department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, based on a trove of documents and emails obtained through public record requests.
According to the advocacy group, the data demonstrates that Neuralink’s contaminated hardware was not properly wrapped to prevent human exposure and that Neuralink personnel who transported the equipment did not receive legally required training on how to securely handle such material.
The charges match a pattern of complaints against Neuralink, which allege that the business harmed animals and conducted sloppy research in order to satisfy Musk’s accelerated product development timetables. As current and former Neuralink employees spoke out about “hack job” surgeries and the unnecessary suffering of research animals, the USDA Inspector General launched an investigation into whether the company violated the Animal Welfare Act last year.
“We take these allegations very seriously,” a USDOT spokeswoman said in an email to The Verge in response to PCRM’s letter. “We are conducting an investigation to ensure that Neuralink is fully compliant with federal standards and that its employees and the general public are safe from potentially harmful diseases.”
Musk revealed in 2019 that Neuralink implanted its device in a monkey, which was then “able to control a computer with its brain.” Since then, Neuralink has shown recordings of monkeys appearing to play video games and spell words using the devices implanted in their heads. Neuralink has also implanted pigs.