Google parent Alphabet's life sciences arm and GSK are teaming up and investing millions into bioelectronics

Lynsey Barber
Follow Lynsey
Smart contacts lenses have been part of Google's prior research (Source: Google)

Google's parent company Alphabet and pharma firm GSK are banding together to form a new company that will explore the science behind using small electronics to treat disease.

The pair will plough £540m over the next seven years into Galvani Bioelectronics, which will explore technology which combines electronics and biology to treat illnesses, with headquarters in the UK.

Alphabet's Verily Life Science, which was formerly known as Google's Life Sciences division before the creation of the Google holding company, will have a 45 per cent stake in the company and GSK a majority 55 per cent stake.

Read more: Google spins off life sciences division under Alphabet

GSK has been working in the new field since 2012 and believes it can help to treat chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and asthma. The firm's chairman of global vaccines, Moncef Slaoui, will chair the board while vice president of bioelectronics research and development, Kris Famm, will be president. Verily chief Andrew Conrad will also join the board.

“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," said Slaoui.

"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 will bring the drug discovery and development understanding, and Google, the tech and data knowledge to the new company.

Read more: Now 90 top life science bosses have signed this Brexit open letter

"This is an ambitious collaboration allowing GSK and Verily to combine forces and have a huge impact on an emerging field," said Verily chief technology officer Brian Otis.

"Bioelectronic medicine is a new area of therapeutic exploration, and we know that success will require the confluence of deep disease biology expertise and new highly miniaturised technologies."

Galvani will be headquartered in Stevenage, where GSK's research and development centre is located, with a second office in San Francisco, initially employing 30 staff made up of scientists, engineers and clinicians.

Related articles