GSK, Verily launch $715 million bet on bioelectronic medicines
- British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline and Verily, the life sciences unit of Google's parent company Alphabet, will jointly launch a new company to develop tiny, implantable devices aimed at treating a number of chronic diseases by altering the electrical signals running through the body.
- Together, Glaxo and Verily will invest as much as £540 million (about $715 million) over seven years into the new joint venture, called Galvani Bioelectronics.
- Galvani will be headquartered alongside GlaxoSmithKline's R&D center in Stevenage, U.K., and will also have research operations next to Verily's offices in South San Francisco, the companies said Monday in an announcement introducing the new company.
Galvani Bioelectronics, named after the 18th century Italian scientist Luigi Aloisio Galvani, deepens Glaxo's bet on bioelectronic medicine.
“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, the chairman of global vaccines at Glaxo who will also serve as chair of the new company.
"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 miniaturized devices attached to individual nerves."
The joint company looks to combine Glaxo's drug discovery and disease biology expertise with Verily's experience in miniaturizing low power electronic and data analytics prowess.
Galvani will focus first on establishing clinical proof-of-concept for the approach in inflammatory, metabolic and endocrine diseases, notably including type 2 diabetes. Arthritis and asthma could also be possible targets for bioelectronic medicine, Glaxo said.
Glaxo's vice president of bioelectronics R&D, Kris Famm, will head the new company, which will be 55% owned by the drugmaker. Both Glaxo and Verily will contribute existing intellectual property rights, although the assets have no current carrying value due to their early-stage nature.
The investment could be seen as a vote of confidence from Glaxo in U.K.-based science after the U.K.'s recent decision to leave the European Union. Just last week, Glaxo announced a roughly $360 million expansion of its manufacturing capacity across three facilities in the U.K.
Verily has been one of Google's (now Alphabet's) most prominent "other bets," or investments not tied to its search and web businesses. Led by Andrew Conrad, Verily already has partnered with Novartis, Biogen, and Johnson & Johnson for several medicine and tech collaborations.
With Novartis, for example,Verily is working to develop "smart" contact lens which could monitor a diabetic's blood sugar levels
But while Verily's efforts have garnered acclaim, it is reportedly struggling to prove the science behind some of its projects. A number of top people on the Verily team have left over the past year as well, according to Stat.
Glaxo has been exploring bioelectronics since 2012, led by Galvani's new president Kris Famm. Thirty scientists will initially work at Galvani, which will be consolidated in Glaxo's financial statements.
"This agreement with Verily to establish Galvani Bioelectronics signals a crucial step forward in GSK’s bioelectronics journey, bringing together health and tech to realize a shared vision of miniaturized, precision electrical therapies," said Moncef Slaoui.
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