$715 million Bioelectronics Firm to be Created by GlaxoSmithKline and Alphabet

With the aim of creating a powerful new force in bioelectronics and use electrical signals rather than chemical or biological drugs to treat disease, GlaxoSmithKline has teamed up with Alphabet, Google’s holding company.

With the ultimate aim of development of commercial bioelectronic medicines, Galvani Bioelectronics is being set up by GSK and Alphabet’s Verily Life Sciences — formerly Google Life Sciences. In addition to contributing existing intellectual property, both the companies plan to invest £540m over seven years in the jointly-owned company.

Verily will own 45 per cent and GSK will own 55 per cent of the new UK-based business. GSK’s main UK research centre in Stevenage would be the base of Galvani.

Recently GSK had announced investment of £275 million in UK pharmaceuticals manufacturing and this disclosure follows that announcement.

Miniaturised, implantable devices that modify electrical signals passing along the body’s nerves is used to tackle a wide range of chronic diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes and asthma in what is being termed as bioelectronics, a new medical field. Side by side conventional medicines and vaccines, this new approach could represent a third way of treating such diseases.

“Many of the processes of the human body are controlled by electrical signals firing between the nervous system and the body’s organs, which may become distorted in many chronic diseases,” said Moncef Slaoui, who has championed GSK’s bioelectronics research since the company started working in the field in 2012.

“Bioelectronic medicine’s vision is to employ the latest advances in biology and technology to interpret this electrical conversation and to correct the irregular patterns found in disease states, using miniaturised devices attached to individual nerves,” he added.

Establishing clinical proofs of principle in inflammatory, metabolic and hormonal disorders, including type 2 diabetes would be the fi5rst step for Galvani Bioelectronics as it starts its journey. The company is named after Luigi Aloisio Galvani, the 18th century Italian pioneer of research into electricity. Clinical proofs of principle in inflammatory in treatment of type 2 diabetes have already produced evidence of effectiveness in animal experiments. Mini-implants for use in patients would laso be developed at the same time by researchers.

“This is an ambitious collaboration allowing GSK and Verily to combine forces and have a huge impact on an emerging field,” Brian Otis, Verily’s chief technology officer said.

A second research hub would also be developed by Galvani at Verily’s facilities in San Francisco. It plans to collaborate with other companies and academic groups working in bioelectronics and is initially slated to employ around 30 scientists, engineers and clinicians for research work.

“This venture with Verily Life Sciences demonstrates the global appeal of our scientific expertise that is helping attract investment, grow the economy and pioneer technologies that could improve millions of lives,” said Greg Clark, UK business secretary.

(Adapted from Financial Times)

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