Google's parent company is working with a UK pharmaceutical giant to make 'bioelectronics'

Google’s parent company Alphabet is setting up a new “bioelectonics” venture with FTSE 100 pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

GSK will own 55% of the new joint venture, called Galvani Bioelectronics, while Alphabet’s Verily Life Sciences (formerly Google Life Sciences) will own the rest.

The two companies will invest £540 million in the new UK-based business over 7 years, as well as contributing intellectual property rights to Galvani. Galvani will “enable the research, development, and commercialisation of bioelectronic medicines.”

The release says that bioelectronics 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 involved in bioelectronics for 4 years and says it thinks diabetes, arthritis, and asthma could all potentially be treated using the new method.

The idea for the joint venture is that GSK can bring its drug and development expertise to the table, while Alphabet can contribute best-in-class tech and analytics.

The Google empire has been mounting a growing push into the world of healthcare in recent years. Google cofounded biotech R&D firm Calico in 2013 and spun out Verily Life Sciences last December. DeepMind, the London-based AI company Google bought in 2014, has also been developing tools for the NHS.

Moncef Slaoui, GSK’s Chairman of Global Vaccines, says in a statement announcing the deal:

“This agreement with Verily to establish Galvani Bioelectronics signals a crucial step forward in GSK’s bioelectronics journey, bringing together health and tech to realise a shared vision of miniaturised, precision electrical therapies. Together, we can rapidly accelerate the pace of progress in this exciting field, to develop innovative medicines that truly speak the electrical language of the body.”

Brian Otis, Verily’s Chief Technology Officer, says in the statement:

“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.”

Galvani will initially employ 30 people and be headquartered at GSK’s Stevenage base. It will have a second research facility at Verily’s San Fransisco offices.

The announcement of the new joint venture comes a week after GSK pledged to invest £275 million in its development network across the UK. GSK shares are up 0.53% after an hour and a half of trade on Monday.

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