Alphabet and GlaxoSmithKline to Collaborate on Bioelectronic Research
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Google's parent company Alphabet is teaming up with pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline to create a joint venture focusing on bioelectronic medicine research, the two companies announced this week.
Vaguely reminiscent of futuristic Hollywood creations like "The Terminator," bioelectronics is a fusion of biology and technology. But instead of creating robot killers, Alphabet and GSK want to use the combination to cure disease.
"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," Moncef Slaoui, GSK's chairman of global vaccines, explained in a statement.
"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," he continued. "If successful, this approach offers the potential for a new therapeutic modality alongside traditional medicines and vaccines."
The joint venture, called Galvani Bioelectronics, will be based in the UK, where GSK -- a British company -- already has most of its R&D facilities. It will also have a second research center near San Francisco, the headquarters of Alphabet's Verily Life Sciences division, formerly known as Google Life Sciences.
After last fall's renaming, Verily has taken on some of Google's most ambitious health and science research, like smart contact lenses capable of sensing glucose levels in people with diabetes. But it has also been plagued with problems, including the departure of much of its leadership team earlier this year.
In addition to Galvani's UK headquarters location, there are multiple signs that GSK will be taking the lead on the new bioelectronics joint venture. It will be led by a current GSK executive and the new company will be fully consolidated in GSK's financial statements.