It doesn’t seem that long ago when putting tiny machines into people’s bodies to cure or manage diseases was the stuff of science-fiction, but bioelectronics is a real – if very new – field of medicine. Alphabet’s Verily Life Sciences (formerly Google Life Sciences) and pharma company GSK are teaming up to invest $715M in the tech over the next seven years.

Bioelectronic medicine is a relatively new scientific field that aims to tackle a wide range of chronic diseases using miniaturised, implantable devices that can modify electrical signals that pass along nerves in the body, including irregular or altered impulses that occur in many illnesses. GSK has been active in this field since 2012 and believes certain chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and asthma could potentially be treated using these devices … 

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The partnership brings together GSK’s understanding of disease biology with Verily’s expertise in the miniaturization of low power electronics with associated data analysis and software development.

Brian Otis, Verily’s Chief Technology Officer, said: “This is an ambitious collaboration allowing GSK and Verily to combine forces and have a huge impact on an emerging field.  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.

This partnership provides an opportunity to further Verily’s mission by deploying our focused expertise in low power, miniaturised therapeutics and our data analytics engine to potentially address many disease areas with greater precision with the goal of improving outcomes.”

GSK’s Chairman of Global Vaccines, Moncef Slaoui, will chair the board of the new company. He said that electrical signals were key to many diseases, and implanted devices could correct wayward ones.

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.

The total investment of $715M is subject to the team hitting a number of ‘discovery and development milestones’ along the way.

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