GSK investment to form UK bioelectronics firm

Posted on 1 Aug 2016 by Jonny Williamson

GSK has declared a further multi-million pound UK investment less than a week after the pharmaceutical giant announced a £275m investment into its UK manufacturing sites.

GSK has signed an agreement with Verily Life Sciences (formerly Google Life Sciences) to form Galvani Bioelectronics, a new company dedicated to the development of bioelectronic medicines.

Bioelectronic medicine is a relatively new scientific field that aims to tackle a wide range of chronic diseases using miniaturised, implantable devices that can modify electrical signals that pass along nerves in the body, including irregular or altered impulses that occur in many illnesses.

GSK has reportedly been active in this field since 2012 and believes certain chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and asthma could potentially be treated using such devices.

Due to come to fruition before the end of 2016, the agreement will see GSK hold a 55% equity interest in the new jointly-owned company and Verily will hold the remaining 45%.

The parent firms are expected to contribute existing intellectual property rights and an investment of up to £540m over seven years.

The new company will bring together GSK’s leading drug discovery and development expertise with Verily’s technical expertise in the miniaturisation of low power electronics; device development; data analytics, and software development for clinical applications.

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Initial work is expected to centre on establishing clinical proofs of principle in inflammatory, metabolic and endocrine disorders, including type 2 diabetes, where substantial evidence already exists in animal models; and developing associated miniaturised, precision devices.

GSK’s chairman of Global Vaccines, and chair of the new company’s board, Moncef Slaoui commented: “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.

“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.

“If successful, this approach offers the potential for a new therapeutic modality alongside traditional medicines and vaccines.

Verily’s Chief Technology Officer, Brian Otis added: “Bioelectronic medicine is a new area of therapeutic exploration, and we know that success will require the confluence of deep disease biology expertise and new highly miniaturised technologies.

“This partnership provides an opportunity to further Verily’s mission by deploying our focused expertise in low power, miniaturised therapeutics and our data analytics engine to potentially address many disease areas with greater precision with the goal of improving outcomes.”

Galvani Bioelectronics is anticipated to be headquartered within GSK’s global R&D centre at Stevenage (UK), with a second research hub at Verily’s facilities in South San Francisco (US).

It will initially employ around 30 expert scientists, engineers and clinicians, and will fund and integrate a broad range of collaborations with both parent companies, academia and other R&D companies.

Kris Famm, GSK’s vice president of Bioelectronics R&D, has been appointed president of the new company. A seven-member board, chaired by Moncef Slaoui, will also be appointed and will include Andrew Conrad, CEO of Verily.