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GSK and Verily Form Joint Venture to Develop Bioelectronic Medicines

August 1, 2016
by Heather Landi
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U.K.-based pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is forming a joint venture with Verily Life Sciences, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet, to research, develop and commercialize bioelectronics medicines.

The companies announced this week the new venture, Galvani Bioelectronics. GSK will hold a 55 percent equity interest in the new jointly owned company and Verily, which was formerly Google Life Sciences, will hold 45 percent equity interest.

Galvani Bioelectronics will be headquartered in the U.K., with the parent companies contributing existing intellectual property rights and an investment of up to 540 million pounds ($715 million) over seven years, subject to successful completion of various discovery and development milestones, the companies stated in a press release.

Bioelectronic medicine is a relatively new field that aims to tackle a wide range of chronic diseases using miniature, implanted devices that can modify electrical signals that pass along nerves in the body, including irregular or altered impulses that occur in many illnesses, according to the press release. GSK has been active in this field since 2012 and the company is betting that certain chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and asthma could potentially be treated using these devices.

The new company will bring together GSK’s drug discovery and development expertise and work in disease biology with Verily’s technical expertise in the miniaturization of low power electronics, device development, data analytics and software development for clinical applications, the companies said.

“Initial work will center 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 miniaturized, precision devices,” the companies stated.

Galvani Bioelectronics will initially employ around 30 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. Famm has co-designed and led GSK’s work in bioelectronics and since 2012, scientists at GSK have been researching the potential of bioelectronic medicines. In that time, the company has established a global network of around 50 research collaborations and investing $50 million in a dedicated bioelectronics venture capital fund.

Galvani Bioelectronics is named after Luigi Aloisio Galvani, an 18th century Italian scientist, physician and philosopher, who was one of the first to explore the field of bioelectricity.

 

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