GSK wants to replace drugs with tiny implants
- GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has developed a division devoted entirely to bioelectronics that can be attached to nerves to regulate drugs, or even eliminate the need for them.
- GSK is seen as a pioneer in this space, and is partially funding development of bioelectronics via a $50 million venture fund.
- In addition to a 30-person in-house development team, GSK is also working with an external team of developers. Its goal is to have a product to market in the next 10 years.
Bioelectronics is not a new field. Examples of various bio-electronic applications include pacemakers, which have been around for almost 100 years, and deep-brain stimulation implantables for patients with Parkinson's disease.
Famm and his extensive team aim to take bioelectronic-based therapeutics to a new level, so that implantables become part of a patient's circuitry and modify functionality on a large scale, using a very small device. One of the main challenges, however, is knowing which neurons control which organs and unraveling the complex web of neuronal functionality and interconnectivity.
Glaxo's goal is to be in the clinic in the next 10 years with a fully functional medical device. During the next 10 years, however, there is a lot of work to be done creating a 'functional map' of the nervous system. Another challenge is creating workable encasements for the implantables---something that it's working on via various collaborations.
Some materials that are being considered and tested are shrink-wrap polymers and synthetic diamonds. The general consensus is that metal and plastic are not good long-term candidates for the types of devices that GSK is engineering.