GlaxoSmithKline is gambling $50M on a venture capital fund that will invest in 20 projects that pioneer bioelectric drugs and technologies that aim to target individual nerve fibres or specific brain circuits to treat an array of conditions.
The fund, known as Action Potential Venture Capital, is named after the electrical signals called “action potentials” that pass along the nerves in the body. Irregular patterns of these impulses may be associated with a range of diseases.
GSK is looking to help develop miniature devices, or bioelectronic medicines, to read these impulse patterns, which can be designed to interface between the peripheral nervous system and specific organs to read, change or generate electronic impulses that help treat disorders as diverse as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis or Type 2 diabetes.
The fund’s first investment will be in California-based SetPoint Medical, which is creating implantable devices to treat inflammatory diseases.
GSK spokeswoman Eleanor Bunch told us that the company “is currently engaging with other major funding and research organisations interested in the field but have not announced any collaborations other than SetPoint.”
The fund will also complement GSK’s bioelectronics R&D unit that “may lead to spin-outs supported by APVC after the year of exploratory funding. Other projects may be driven in a direct research collaboration between the Bioelectronics R&D unit and partners after the exploratory year.
“We have not announced a dollar amount, but we have committed to support up to 20 projects covering in total up to 40 full time researchers and the expenditure associated with the work,” Bunch said.
Although the field of bioelectronic medicines is in the early stages, GSK says it’s looking to create the first of these medicines by the end of this decade.
“The fund will be agnostic about the types of projects it invests in,” Bunch added. “APVC and the GSK Bioelectronics unit are both predominantly focused on peripheral neutral interventions across a broad range of diseases and the technologies that will be platform components and enablers to bring about bioelectronic medicines that can read and intelligently modulate neural signals.”