While Elon Musk’s brain implant company, Neuralink, has announced plans to begin human patient tests before the end of next year, experts believe proving the technology’s competence may take longer.

In an event yesterday, held primarily for recruiting more talent on the Neuralink team, Musk stated that the team is working on a “sewing machine” – like robot, implanting threads, smaller than one-third of human hair, within human brain tissue to help patients suffering from motor-related diseases and disorders.

Despite the hype around the Musk-led startup, founded in 2017, manufacturing the technology may take longer than anticipated, according to experts like Moran Cerf, an associate professor of neuroscience and business at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. 

“The way to implant a device in the brain has currently been through brain surgery, which is invasive and hence not a viable solution for commercial markets,” Cerf says. “The question with human testing is what they are exactly testing. This can be for PR and I believe Neuralink is still in its pre-stages. It will take longer.”

  • Neuroscientists like Dan Rizzuto, CEO of Nia Therapeutics, a memory implant startup company, believe Neuralink is showing promise with an innovative approach to this technology. “This is a new development from what we’ve seen,” Rizzuto said. “Their surgical robot and threading system looks less invasive and longer lasting — two things that previous inventions from other companies lacked.”
  • “There are still of unknowns with Neuralink,” Rizzuto agrees. “To date, they haven’t published anything on their design.”
  • “Dependent on their designs and the FDA, I think the earliest for clinical tests can be in one and a half years. The real barrier for Neuralink is developing and proving their technology.”
  • While other companies like Paradromics Inc. and Kernel have been developing neural interfaces and chips as early as 2015, Neuralink may become the leader if the company’s new technology finds success. According to Rizzuto, Neuralink’s threading-method “tries to exceed the time. If I were Paradromics, I would be very scared right now with this new competitive technology.”  
  • Karma Takeaway: Despite its innovative approach to brain implants, Neuralink has yet to prove its technology as it prepares for human tests next year.