Elon Musk’s Neuralink Valuated at About $5 Bln Despite Long Road to Market

Despite a long road to market, Elon Musk’s brain implant startup Neuralink is valued at about $5 bln. However, according to trading on Hiive, an online exchange, investors are willing to pay for the shares. The company hasn’t gone public yet, but some purchases by bullish investors boosted its valuation in recent months ahead of the May 25 announcement that U.S. regulators had approved a human trial on its brain chip.

The FDA approval of Neuralink’s brain-computer interface (BCI) marks a significant milestone in its development. However, it still has a long way to go to make a commercial product available for patients. The device, a small implant that takes the place of a removed section of the skull, is designed to connect to the brain and provide stimulation to help treat various conditions, including seizures, Parkinson’s tremors, and paralysis.

Founded in 2016, Neuralink initially attracted top neuroscientists, but most have left to work for other companies and academic labs. The company is now trying to bulk up its team with a Wednesday recruitment event. Its website encourages candidates with experience “creating advanced devices like watches and phones” and expertise in animal care, clinical and regulatory matters.

Musk, who also runs carmaker Tesla and rocket firm SpaceX, has touted Neuralink as a critical player in brain-computer interfaces. At a recent recruitment event, he described the technology as “the most important thing we’re working on” and said he wants to receive one of its implants. However, Johnson and Cabrera said that his track record of mishandling Twitter user data raises concerns over how he and his company would protect participants’ privacy in future trials.

Neuralink’s high valuation also raises questions about whether it can successfully develop its technology. The FDA typically takes several years to approve a medical device, and experts say Neuralink’s timeline is ambitious.

The company’s use of animals to test its device has also drawn scrutiny. The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, which advocates against animal testing, has called on Neuralink to release details of experiments with monkeys that allegedly resulted in internal bleeding, paralysis, chronic infections, and declining mental health. Neuralink and its lawyers have declined to comment on the investigation.

The company’s valuation could also be overinflated because the BCI market is young, and it needs to be clarified that any startups in this space will produce viable products, experts say. Investors are betting that Neuralink will prove its value, but that remains to be seen. The company’s share price has soared in recent weeks ahead of its announcement that the FDA had cleared the way for a human study on its brain implant. Its stock has gained about 20% since the end of 2022, closing at $6.20 on Thursday. It was down about 0.8% in premarket trading on Friday. A spokesman for the FDA declined to comment on the report but said it is reviewing the application from Neuralink to begin human studies of its device.

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