Britain’s biggest drugmaker GSK and Verily Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Google’s Alphabet, have teamed up to create Galvani Bioelectronics, which will focus on developing nerve implants to treat chronic illnesses.

The new company, owned 55 percent by GSK and 45 percent by Verily, will be based at GSK’s Stevenage research center in London, with a second facility in San Francisco. Both Verily Life Sciences and GSK will invest $715 million on Galvani Bioelectronics over seven years.

Bioelectronics to fight chronic diseases by 2023

Galvani Bioelectronics will step into the growing field of bioelectronic medicine that targets electrical signals in the body through the implants to combat chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and asthma.

Moncef Slaoui, GSK’s chairperson of global vaccines, explained how the implants would be developed. He said that many of the processes continuously developing in the human body are controlled by the nervous system with electrical signals transmitted to the organs. Chronic diseases corrupt these signals, and they become errant.

This is when bioelectronic medicine is set to kick into “employ the latest advances in biology and technology” to figure out this electrical conversation to correct the irregular behavior of signals in disease states, using implants on individual nerves.

GSK added they were ahead of rivals Big Pharma in bioelectronics advances. But Kris Famm, GSK’s head of bioelectronics research and president of Galvani gave a compelling statement.

“The first bioelectronic medicines using these implants to stimulate nerves could be submitted for regulatory approval in 2023,” added Famm.

Animal tests before humans

As usual, experiments on animals have been conducted prior further testing on humans. Researchers have attached tiny silicone cuffs that contain electrodes around nerves and controlled its electrical messages using a power supply.

Type-2 diabetes, a disease in which the body ignores the hormone insulin, could be treated with the new medical approach according to one series of tests that were focused on a group of chemical sensors near the main artery in the neck responsible for checking levels of sugar and the hormone insulin. Through a nerve, the sensors then send their findings back to the brain, allowing it to coordinate the body’s response to sugar in the bloodstream.

“By blocking those neural signals in diabetic rats, you see the sensitivity of the body to insulin is restored,” explained Famm.

GSK and Verily have other projects

Both GSK and Verily have several other medical projects in the works that show healthcare and technology are the two pillars of the medicine of the future. Galvani Bioelectronics was GSK’s second significant investment this year after announcing plans to spend $360 million on drug manufacturing for its principal disease areas like asthma, cancer, diabetes, and mental health.

Meanwhile, Verily has allied with drugmaker giant Novartis to develop the Google Contact Lens, a smart contact lens with glucose sensor to monitor diabetes. Other projects include a spoon for people with tremors, a wristband for health-tracking, a nanoparticle platform that detects diseases, and advancements in surgical robotics with Johnson & Johnson.

Source: Deccan Chronicle