Elon Musk’s Neuralink is under investigation following internal complaints that its animal testing was being rushed and causing needless deaths.
Neuralink Corp is developing a brain implant it hopes will help paralyzed people walk again and cure other neurological ailments.
Co-founder Musk recently said he hopes that the Neuralink brain chip will be ready for human trials within six months.
The federal probe, which has not been previously reported, was opened in recent months by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General at the request of a federal prosecutor, according to Reuters.
The probe, one of the sources said, focuses on violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which governs how researchers treat and test some animals.
Reuters conducted interviews with more than 20 current and former employees of Neuralink and reviewed dozens of company documents that reveal complaints about CEO Musk pressuring employees to accelerate development, resulting in botched experiments and increasing the number of animals being tested and killed.
In all, the company has killed about 1,500 animals, including more than 280 sheep, pigs and monkeys, following experiments since 2018, according to records reviewed by Reuters.
The sources characterized that figure as a rough estimate because the company does not keep precise records on the number of animals tested and killed. Neuralink has also conducted research using rats and mice.