US lawmakers will ask regulators to investigate whether the makeup of a panel overseeing animal testing at Elon Musk’s brain-chip startup Neuralink contributed to botched and rushed experiments.
US House of Representatives Earl Francis Blumenauer and Adam Schiff, both Democrats, have signed a draft letter to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) calling for an investigation into how Neuralink monitored its experiments, Blumenauer’s office said.
Lawmakers have shared the draft with colleagues to gather more signatures and plan to send it to the USDA on Monday. The draft says they are responding to a May 4 Reuters report that showed Neuralink has filled its board of directors with employees from the company, who will benefit financially if the start-up receives regulatory approval for its launch receives a new type of brain chip.
The panel approved experiments that resulted in unnecessary animal death and suffering, Reuters showed in a Dec. 5 article. A spokesman for Blumenauer said the USDA did not respond to an earlier request from lawmakers to investigate Neuralink following the story.
“Congress has a significant interest in ensuring that all facilities that use animals for research and testing — whether state-run, universities or private companies — meet the minimum standards of the Animal Welfare Act,” the draft letter reads.
Musk and Neuralink officials, as well as spokespersons for the USDA and the agency’s inspector general, did not respond to requests for comment.
Neuralink has already been the subject of federal investigations. Reuters reported on December 5 that the USDA’s inspector general, on behalf of a federal prosecutor, is investigating possible violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which regulates how researchers treat and test certain species of animals. This investigation also looked at the USDA’s oversight of Neuralink.
The inspector general and the USDA did not respond to a request for comment on the progress of this investigation.
The US Department of Transportation announced in February that it is investigating Neuralink for the spread of dangerous pathogens. A spokesman for the agency said the investigation was continuing, without giving details.
USDA inspectors visited Neuralink facilities in California and Texas in January in response to Reuters reporting and lawmakers’ requests, but found no problems, Reuters reported last week.
Neuralink has attempted to gain clearance for human trials after a previous trial was rejected by the Food and Drug Administration last year on safety grounds.
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