After Pager the macaque and Gertrude the pig, the next person to test Neuralink’s technology will be a human. And this is not another indefinite promise from Elon Musk. As I write this, the company is looking for a “Clinical Trials Director” to prepare your landing in the world of the elderly: the extremely complex (sometimes insanely difficult) process of bringing a medical device to market.
What is Neuralink? In general terms, it is a company, backed by Elon Musk, that seeks to implant “wires” and chips in the human brain that allow specific areas of it to communicate with the outside. Initially, the proposal seeks purely biomedical objectives such as restoring the ability to speak, listen or walk in people who (for one reason or another) have lost them. But they do not hide that, ultimately, the intention is to go further.
A world of possibilities… which so far can be summed up as “much ado about nothing”. Not because in recent years Nauralink hasn’t presented interesting things, but rather because until now its work has been focused on collecting the available technology, packaging it and designing it in an attractive and apparently safe way. But, at the same time, they have been very careful not to give dates or establish closed calendars. Now the landing of the project seems imminent.
What does the ad say? “As director of clinical trials, you will work closely with some of the most innovative clinicians and engineers, as well as working with Neuralink’s first clinical trial participants,” explains the offer. “You will lead and help build the team responsible for enabling Neuralink’s clinical research activities and developing the regulatory interactions to come.”
What can we expect? In the short (or even medium) term we can expect little. The timelines and research requirements for technologies that work directly in the brain are long. Although, as we have seen in the case of xenotransplantation, there are quick approval routes based on compassionate criteria (for terminally ill patients), Neuralink’s technology is far from even that point.
Of course, it is excellent news that they continue to advance in the project. With its pluses and minuses (more less than more, in many cases), it is one of the most interesting initiatives to tackle one of the last frontiers that resist us: that of the brain.