GSK plugs into bioelectronics with $50 mln venture fund
LONDON, Aug 8 (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline raised its bet on using electrical signals in the body to target diseases on Thursday with the launch of a $50 million strategic venture capital fund.
Britain's biggest drugmaker hopes to have the first medicine that effectively speaks the electrical "language" of the body ready for approval by the end of this decade.
GSK said the new fund's first investment would be in SetPoint Medical, a California company working on implantable devices to treat inflammatory diseases.
As reported in April, GSK is also offering a $1 million prize to stimulate innovation in the new field, known variously as "bioelectronics" or "electroceuticals".
The initiatives represent a long-term gamble on the promise of a novel kind of medicine that uses electrical impulses rather than the chemicals or biological molecules found in today's drugs. GSK believes it is ahead of rivals in the area.
The idea is to use the electrical impulses that form the language of the body's nervous system to address a range of diseases, from high blood pressure to breathing problems and, eventually, brain disorders.
The concept is not completely new. Large-scale electrical devices have been used for years as heart pacemakers and, more recently, electrical stimulation has been applied to treat Parkinson's disease, severe depression and some neurological disorders, as well as to improve bladder control.
But in future GSK wants to apply electrical interventions at the micro level by targeting specific cells within neural circuits. That could lead to novel nanoscale implants to coax insulin from cells to treat diabetes or correct muscle imbalances in lung diseases or to regulate food intake in obesity.
GSK's new Action Potential Venture Capital operation will be based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.