GSK and Google parent forge $715 million bioelectronic medicines firm
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline and Google parent Alphabet's life sciences unit are creating a new company focused on fighting diseases by targeting electrical signals in the body, jump-starting a novel field of medicine called bioelectronics.
Verily Life Sciences - known as Google's life sciences unit until last year - and Britain's biggest drugmaker will together contribute 540 million pounds ($715 million) over seven years to Galvani Bioelectronics, they said on Monday.
The new company, owned 55 percent by GSK and 45 percent by Verily, will be based at GSK's Stevenage research center north of London, with a second research hub in South San Francisco.
It is GSK's second notable investment in Britain since the country voted to leave the European Union in June. Last week it announced plans to spend 275 million pounds on drug manufacturing.
Galvani will develop miniaturized, implantable devices that can modify electrical nerve signals. The aim is to modulate irregular or altered impulses that occur in many illnesses.
GSK believes chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and asthma could be treated using these tiny devices, which consist of a electronic collar that wraps around nerves.
Kris Famm, GSK's head of bioelectronics research and president of Galvani, said the first bioelectronic medicines using these implants to stimulate nerves could be submitted for regulatory approval by around 2023.
"We have had really promising results in animal tests, where we've shown we can address some chronic diseases with this mechanism, and now we are bringing that work into the clinic," he told Reuters. Continued...