GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced that it is partnering with Verily Life Sciences LLC to form Galvani Bioelectronics. According to the press release, GSK and Verily will contribute IP rights and an investment of $712.7 million over seven years.
The new firm, Galvani, is named after the 18th century Italian scientist, physician, and philosopher, Luigi Aloisio Galvani. Galvani was one of the first to explore bioelectronics, and discovered that the muscles of a frog’s legs twitched when the sciatic nerves were stimulated with an electric spark. Galvani’s observations paved the path for the fields of electrophysiology and neuroscience – two pivotal fields in the development of bioelectric medicine.
The press release notes that Galvani Bioelectronics will be a bioelectronics medicine firm, performing research, development, and commercialization of miniaturized, implantable devices that fight diseases by targeting electrical signals in the body. These devices will initially be about the size of a medical pill, with the goal of making them as small as or smaller than a grain of rice. The new devices are said to be designed to function by modifying electrical nerve signals, which could modulate irregular or altered impulses that occur in many illnesses. The press release indicates that these devices may be slated for FDA approval by around 2023.
According to Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who will chair the board of Galvani:
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.
GSK has been researching these miniaturized medical devices, and published their initial progress in the field in Nature in 2013. Galvani Bioelectronics is 55% owned by GSK and 45% owned by Verily. The company will be based at GSK’s Stevenage research center north of London, with a second research facility in San Francisco. According to Slaoui:
This agreement with Verily to establish Galvani Bioelectronics signals a crucial step forward in GSK’s bioelectronics journey, bringing together health and tech to realise a shared vision of miniaturised, precision electrical therapies. Together, we can rapidly accelerate the pace of progress in this exciting field, to develop innovative medicines that truly speak the electrical language of the body.