GSK partners with Belgian neurostim startup in bioelectronic medicine research

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has been quietly working on bioelectronic medicines for years--after having established an R&D unit dedicated to it in 2012, which was followed by a $50 million venture fund in 2013, and then a $5 million innovation challenge in 2014. Although it hasn't disclosed much about the fruits of its efforts, it has done a new deal to add to them.

The pharma giant has partnered with tiny Belgian startup Nuviant Medical to use its neurostimulation implant systems as a research platform for clinical applications of bioelectronics medicine. The notion behind this approach is that bioelectronic devices can be used to modulate the electrical impulses involved in the body to manipulate it to reverse chronic illnesses that could include diabetes, asthma, hypertension, arthritis, pain and even cancer.

Synapse neurostimulation system--Courtesy of Nuviant

Nuviant's Synapse neurostimulation system is currently in clinical testing for deep brain stimulation; it ultimately expects to aim for FDA approval of the device. It has already received a CE mark for the system for use in certain movement disorders; Parkinson's disease is a specific focus.

The company claims Synapse offers the "thinnest and most sophisticated implantable neurostimulation solution currently on the market." It also has a wireless iteration without a battery that can be used for peripheral nerve stimulation.

Last year, the startup won a €3.4 million regional award to develop its Cardiax Project, a neurostimulation treatment for atrial fibrillation, which it said would allow it to add 25 to 30 new employees over three years. It also got a $175,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a neuromodulation system for superior laryngeal nerve stimulation to facilitate swallowing in patients with dysphagia. Financial details of the GSK deal with Nuviant remain undisclosed.

"We look forward to working with GSK, a respected organization known for powerful innovation," said Nuviant President Hartmut Spitaels in a statement. "We are thrilled that they recognize the advanced capabilities of our device and are excited to partner with them via our development and manufacturing as we work towards the enhancement of bioelectronics."

GSK offered its latest view of the promise of bioelectronics saying it is "pursuing a relatively new scientific field that could one day result in a new class of medicines that would not be pills or injections but miniaturized, implantable devices. The devices would be designed to interface with peripheral nerves to modulate specific organs with intent to treat a range of chronic diseases."

This likely isn't the only recent med tech effort from GSK. Last month, rumors were swirling that the pharma was working on a $1 billion med tech-focused joint venture with mobile player Qualcomm ($QCOM).

- here is the announcement