Google partners with pharma giant on ‘bioelectronic’ medicines

The company formerly known as Google Life Sciences LLC and GlaxoSmithKline plc (Brentford, England) have agreed to form a joint venture to develop bioelectronics including such technologies as implanted neurostimulators.

Galvani Bioelectronics will be headquartered in the UK and GSK will own 55% and Verily Life Sciences LLC, previously Google Life Sciences, will own 45%. The two parent companies are contributing existing intellectual property and plan to invest up to $700 million (about £540 million) in Galvani over the next seven years subject to the company meeting discovery and development milestones, GSK said.

GSK has been active in bioelectronics since 2012 and said it believes that chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and asthma could potentially be treated using electronic stimulation of nerve pathways.

Initial work will focus on establishing clinical proofs of principle in inflammatory, metabolic and endocrine disorders, including type 2 diabetes, and developing associated miniaturised, precision devices.

Google Bioelectronic Yole

Moncef Slaoui, GSK’s Chairman of Global Vaccines, who was instrumental in establishing GSK’s investments in the field of bioelectronics, will chair the board of the new company. He said: “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.”

Galvani Bioelectronics will be fully consolidated in GSK’s financial statements and headquartered within GSK’s global R&D centre at Stevenage in the UK, with a second research hub at Verily’s facilities in South San Francisco. It will initially employ around 30 expert scientists, engineers and clinicians.