GlaxoSmithKline, Google’s Verily Create $715 Million Bioelectronic Medicines Firm

Hundreds of Jobs to Go at GlaxoSmithKline

August 1, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

LONDON – GlaxoSmithKline and Google ’s Verily Life Sciences have pooled their resources to form a new company focused on the development and commercialization of bioelectronics medicines, Galvani Bioelectronics.

The new partnership was formally announced on Aug. 1, with GlaxoSmithKline being the majority partner, holding a 55 percent interest in the jointly-owned company and Verily holding the remainder. The new company will have its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Both GSK and Verily will provide seed funding of up to $715 million over seven years. The funding is subject to the successful completion of discovery and developmental milestones, GSK said in a statement. GSK will likely provide a slightly higher amount of funding given that it has the larger stake in the new bioelectronics company. The new company will be fully consolidated in GSK’s financial statements.

Bioelectronic medicine uses miniaturized and implantable devices that can modify electrical signals that pass along nerves in the body, including irregular or altered impulses that occur in many illnesses. It’s a field that GSK has been involved with since 2012. In a statement GSK said it believes bioelectronics medicine can benefit certain chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and asthma. Verily has also been developing devices that will assist in disease management, including a partnership with Novartis , one of the largest insulin makers in the world, to develop a contact lens that will help diabetes patients control their treatment. Although not yet available, one aspect of the lens would be an LED light system that would light up to warn the wearer when glucose levels were too high or low. Another such device Verily has been working on (and there are some questions about the progress of their projects) is the tricorder, a device using nanoparticles to track down cancer cells in the body.

“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 miniaturized devices attached to individual nerves,” Moncef Slaoui, GSK’s vice president of bioelectronics R&D and the new chairman of Galvani said in a statement.

Galvani’s initial focus will center on developing clinical proofs of “principle in principle in inflammatory, metabolic and endocrine disorders, including type 2 diabetes, where substantial evidence already exists in animal models; and developing associated miniaturized, precision devices,” according to the statement.

Galvani will be helmed by Kris Famm. Famm has pioneered work in both large and small molecule drug discovery and worked for a decade developing and delivering R&D strategy with a recurring focus on emerging technologies.

Galvani’s board will be chaired by GSK’s Slaoui and will include Andrew Conrad, chief executive officer of Verily.

Galvani Bioelectronics will be headquartered within GSK’s global R&D center at Stevenage in the U.K., with a second research hub at Verily’s facilities in South San Francisco. It will initially employ around 30 expert scientists, engineers and clinicians, and will fund and integrate a broad range of collaborations with both parent companies, academia and other R&D companies. GSK and Verily believe this collaborative way of working will rapidly accelerate the development of bioelectronic medicines.