Elon Musk's healthcare disruption: Brain chips, clinical research and more

In October 2021, Elon Musk became the richest person in the world. With a net worth of about $241 billion as of Feb. 17, he and his companies have potential to bring major disruption to most industries. Below are some of the ways Mr. Musk has entered the healthcare space.


In January, Mr. Musk's company Neuralink began searching for a clinical trial director to lead the testing of its artificial intelligence-powered chip's implantation into human brains. The chip has been successfully implanted in a pig and macaque monkey but never a human.

Neuralink is developing a "fully integrated brain machine interface system," according to the company's website. The system aims to allow people to wirelessly transmit and receive information between their brain and a computer.

In December, Mr. Musk told The Wall Street Journal's CEO Council Summit the first participants Neuralink is aiming to include in clinical trials will be people with severe spinal cord injuries. He said the chip has a chance to restore full-body functionality in people with such injuries.

SpaceX and Medtronic

Amid supply chain issues and skyrocketing demand for ventilators in 2020, Mr. Musk's aerospace company SpaceX partnered with Medtronic, one of the biggest manufacturers of medical technology, to develop a part for its ventilators.

​​SpaceX converted part of its rocket manufacturing facility in Hawthorne, Calif., to manufacture proportional solenoid valves, which controls the flow of air and oxygen inside Medtronic's ventilators.

"I have never seen anything like this in my life," Matt Phillips, a Medtronic employee who manages a ventilator research and development team, said in a company post. "The partnership came together so quickly, and everyone moved with a sense of urgency and purpose because we knew people’s lives were on the line."

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

In September, Mr. Musk pledged to donate $50 million toward Inspiration4's fundraiser for Memphis, Tenn.-based St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The goal of Inspiration4, the first all-civilian space mission, was to raise $200 million for St. Jude. Before Mr. Musk's pledge, the mission had raised $160.2 million.

"This brings tears to my eyes," Hayley Arceneaux, Inspiration4 medical officer and St. Jude physician assistant, tweeted after Mr. Musk announced his donation. "Thank you Elon Musk for this generous donation toward our $200 million dollar fundraising goal for St. Jude!!!"

COVID-19 research

In February 2021, Mr. Musk co-wrote a COVID-19 study. The study, published in Nature Communications, tracked COVID-19 infections and antibody levels among SpaceX employees.

SpaceX medical executives worked with physicians and researchers to launch an antibody testing program in 2020. SpaceX employees who volunteered to participate in the study underwent monthly blood tests from mid-April to June 2020.

Of the 4,300 SpaceX volunteers tested, 300 contracted COVID-19. Researchers had enough data on 120 employees to examine their antibody levels and draw conclusions for the study. Researchers found these employees had a level of antibodies that could provide immunity, but "the precise levels [...] associated with protection from reinfection remain unclear."

The study also found that antibody levels were much lower in those who experienced milder symptoms.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars