Google Partners with GSK to Pioneer Bioelectric Medicine

Google Bioelectric Medicine

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is partnering with Great Britain’s leading pharmaceutical firm to provide a novel method for treating some of the most common chronic illnesses and conditions, ranging from arthritis to diabetes.

According to a joint announcement made on Monday, the partnership between Google and GlaxoSmithKline will involve the formation of a new company called Galvani Bioelectronics. Verily Life Sciences, Google’s medical research and development subsidiary, will own 45 percent of the joint venture. Together, Google and GSK will pour approximately $715 million into the project over the next seven years.

Galvani will develop small, implantable devices designed to modify electrical nerve signals. The goal is to moderate irregular or altered electrical impulses that occur in several illnesses. GSK theorizes that these devices, which consist of an electric collar that wraps around nerves, could treat illnesses such as arthritis, asthma, and diabetes.

This idea of electric stimulation to treat diseases is not new, yet Galvani seeks to modernize the idea by miniaturizing the devices, thus making the implantation less invasive and virtually risk- free.

For years, large-scale electronic devices such as pacemakers have been used to treat illnesses. More recently, deep brain stimulation has been utilized to treat Parkinson’s disease as well as severe depression. Just last year, EntroMedics obtained approval for a device designed to help obese individuals control their appetitie.

Unlike devices that currently exist, Galvani fits into this business at the micro-level. For example, their tiny implants, which Galvani hopes to develop down to the size of a grain of rice if not even smaller, will be able to coax insulin from cells to treat diabetes or even correct muscle imbalances in lung diseases.

Kris Famm, GSK’s head of bioelectronics research and president of Galvani, is happy with the results seen through testing so far. “We have had really promising results in animal tests, where we’ve shown we can address some chronic diseases with this mechanism, and now we are bringing that work into the clinic.”

While these devices do indeed seem “promising”, Galvani still has a long way to go before their creation is ready for practical use in the medical field. Galvani’s goal is to have them submitted for regulatory approval by 2023. This means that practical, everyday use of these implanted devices may not come to fruition for nearly ten years. However, when that time comes, Galvani may just open the door to an entirely new form of medical treatment.

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