GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said today it will partner with Verily Life Sciences (formerly Google Life Sciences) to research, develop, and commercialize “bioelectronic” medicines by spending a combined £540 million ($713 million) over 7 years.
The money—to be tied to achieving discovery and development milestones—is intended to support a new company, Galvani Bioelectronics. The companies will contribute existing intellectual property rights to Galvani, which will be 55% owned by GSK and the rest, by Verily.
Since 2012, GSK said, it has been active in bioelectronic medicine, which aims to fight chronic diseases through miniaturized, implantable devices capable of modifying electrical signals that pass along nerves in the body. Those signals include the irregular or altered impulses occurring in many illnesses.
GSK said it has created a global network of around 50 research collaborations and invested $50 million in a dedicated bioelectronics venture capital fund. The pharma giant reasons that bioelectronics medicines can potentially treat arthritis, diabetes, and asthma.
Those chronic diseases mesh with three of GSK’s 12 key therapeutic areas of interest—immunoinflammation, metabolic/cardiovascular, and respiratory—with bioelectronics R&D identified as a fourth.
Galvani is designed to combine GSK’s drug discovery and development expertise and knowledge of disease biology with Verily’s technical expertise in the miniaturization of low-power electronics, device development, data analytics, and software development for clinical applications.
Initial work at Galvani will focus on establishing clinical proofs of principle in inflammatory, metabolic, and endocrine disorders—including type 2 diabetes, where GSK said “substantial” evidence already exists in animal models—as well as developing associated miniaturized, precision devices.
Galvani will be headquartered within GSK’s global R&D center at Stevenage, U.K., with a second research hub at the South San Francisco, CA, facilities of Verily, the life sciences division of Google parent Alphabet Inc.
Soon after the announcement of Alphabet’s creation last year, a Google spokesperson told GEN that “Diabetes is a major focus area for the life sciences team at Google as we become a standalone company.” The company has combined its miniaturized electronics platform with Dexcom’s sensor technology to develop next-generation versions of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).
GSK said the new company 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.
“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,” Moncef Slaoui, GSK’s Chairman of Global Vaccines, said in a statement. “If successful, this approach offers the potential for a new therapeutic modality alongside traditional medicines and vaccines.”
Slaoui has spearheaded GSK’s investments in bioelectronics, and will chair Galvani’s seven-member board, whose members will include Verily CEO Andy Conrad, Ph.D.
Kris Famm, GSK’s vp of bioelectronics R&D, has been appointed president of Galvani.
Added Verily Chief Technical Officer Brian Otis, Ph.D.: “This partnership provides an opportunity to further Verily’s mission by deploying our focused expertise in low-power, miniaturized therapeutics and our data analytics engine to potentially address many disease areas with greater precision with the goal of improving outcomes.”
The collaboration is subject to customary closing conditions (including antitrust approvals) and is expected to close before the end of 2016. GSK said Galvani will be fully consolidated within its financial statements.
GSK’s other key therapeutic areas are biopharmaceuticals technologies and processes; consumer healthcare; infectious diseases, including bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections; neglected tropical diseases; neurosciences; oncology; and vaccines.