Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates invest in rival Neuralink, Elon Musk’s company

Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates invest in rival Neuralink, Elon Musk's company

Already competitors in the conquest of space with SpaceX and Blue Origin, is the rivalry between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos intruding on a new playing field? This is what the investment that the founder of Amazon has just made in the American start-up Synchron suggests. The latter works on brain-computer interfaces, the same business segment as Neuralink, Elon Musk’s company in the field of neurotechnology.

This company has just announced a round of funding of 75 million dollars made with Jeff Bezos via its investment vehicle Bezos Expeditions, but also with Bill Gates, the emblematic co-founder of Microsoft, who owns the Gates Frontier fund. ARCH Venture Partners, Greenoaks, Khosla Ventures, Forepont Capital Partners, and ID8 Investments also participated in the operation.

This fundraising brings to $145 million the funds raised by the company since its launch in 2016. Created the same year, Elon Musk’s company, Neuralink, has raised $373 million over the same period. . In 2021, the sector recorded $568 million in investments in start-ups that attempt to connect the human brain to computers.

Head start for human brain implant testing

Founded by Nicholas Opie and Thomas Oxley, Synchron is developing an implant, called Switch, which aims to help paralyzed people, particularly those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Charcot’s disease, to communicate in controlling a computer by thought. A clinical trial is currently underway in the United States to assess the impact of this electronic chip on daily tasks such as writing SMS and emails, making online purchases, or even accessing telemedicine services. After receiving Food and Drug Administration (FDA) blessing in 2021, Synchron implanted its first microchip in a US patient in July 2022.

For his part, Elon Musk said in early December that Neuralink hoped to test its brain implants on humans within six months, provided it obtains FDA approval. The American authorities will undoubtedly be very attentive to the next experiments carried out by the company, which had found itself at the center of a scandal at the beginning of the year because of accusations of animal abuse during tests on primates. If the chips developed by Neuralink could allow people with disabilities to move and communicate again, Elon Musk dreams that they will be used by an able-bodied population, the goal being ultimately to control complex electronic devices. . The fusion of the brain with artificial intelligence is even mentioned. But for now, this perspective is still science fiction.