Neuralink nabs $280M after scoring FDA OK to begin human trials of brain implant

Neuralink, the Elon Musk-founded company developing an implant he’s described as “a Fitbit in your skull,” recently announced that it had gotten the go-ahead from the FDA to begin human clinical trials—and now, it has secured extra funding to see the studies through.

The outfit raised $280 million in a recent venture capital round, according to a company announcement Monday that was posted, of course, on Musk’s X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

The series D round was led by Founders Fund, the San Francisco VC firm co-founded by serial entrepreneur Peter Thiel, who worked alongside Musk at PayPal. Founders Fund previously joined in on Neuralink’s $205 million series C financing in 2021 and has also backed SpaceX, Musk’s rocket-launching venture.

The new funding pushes Neuralink well past the half-billion mark. Prior to its series C and D rounds, it raised about $160 million across two additional funding tranches in 2017 and 2019, the bulk of which came from Musk himself.

The VC support will presumably be put toward the impending clinical trials of the Neuralink implant.

“We’re extremely excited about this next chapter at Neuralink,” the company wrote in this week’s announcement, adding, “If you’d like to help make the first human experience incredible and work on engineering challenges to restore vision and mobility, come join!”

The X post (née tweet) included a link to Neuralink’s job listings, which include about four dozen open intern and full-time positions in Austin, Texas, and Fremont, California. They span all areas of the company, with calls for neural, mechanical, software and electrical engineers, animal welfare specialists, neurosurgeon residents, regulatory writers and a new head of the clinical team.

The news that the FDA had given Neuralink its blessing to begin human trials of its implant—which the company announced in late May in another post on the platform that was then still known as Twitter—came in the wake of reports that its race to the clinic had been derailed by a host of issues.

One Reuters report earlier this year, for example, claimed that Neuralink’s previous request to begin clinical trials had been denied in the spring of 2022 and that some current and former employees were skeptical that the safety and efficacy concerns raised by the FDA in its rejection could be addressed as quickly as Musk was hoping.

Though their skepticism was proven wrong by the FDA’s subsequent green light, Neuralink has still fallen somewhat behind Musk’s timeline: During a livestreamed presentation in November, he claimed that “probably in about six months we should be able to have our first Neuralink in a human.”

That placed the trial kickoff sometime in May; to date, the company has yet to begin enrollment for the now-approved study, but interested individuals can enroll in Neuralink’s Patient Registry, with the data shared there potentially used to determine whether they’ll be eligible to participate in the eventual trial.