Devices & Diagnostics

GSK launches $50M fund to invest in pioneering bioelectronics technology

Updated About one year ago GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) set up a division to study the electrical impulses along the peripheral nervous system and develop technologies to read, change, or manipulate these impulses to treat acute and chronic diseases. Now it’s launched a $50 million venture capital fund to invest in companies with pioneering technology in […]

Updated About one year ago GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) set up a division to study the electrical impulses along the peripheral nervous system and develop technologies to read, change, or manipulate these impulses to treat acute and chronic diseases. Now it’s launched a $50 million venture capital fund to invest in companies with pioneering technology in this emerging field of bioelectronics, according to a company statement.

The Action Potential Venture Capital fund, which will be based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, takes its name from the electrical signals that pass along the nerves in the body. Problems with the patterns of these impulses are associated with a broad range of diseases.

The plan is to build a portfolio of five to seven companies between now and 2018. Among the disorders it wants to treat are inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD, and metabolic diseases including Type 2 diabetes.

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It is looking to invest in three different sets of companies:

  • New start-up companies that aim to pursue the vision of bioelectronic medicines.
  • Existing companies with technologies that are interacting with the peripheral nervous system through first-generation devices that can stimulate or block electrical impulses.
  • Companies advancing technology platforms that will underpin these treatment modalities.

In addition to the fund, GSK also set up a grant program with 20 exploratory research grants and is creating a network of investigators.

Moncef Slaoui, chairman of R&D and the architect of GSK’s early stage investment strategy said in the statement: “We want to help create the medicines of the future and be the catalyst for this work. GSK can play the integrating role that is needed to drive this new type of medical treatment all the way from the bench to the patient and this fund is a key part of our efforts.”

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The first company to benefit is SetPoint Medical, a Valencia, California-based company using proprietary implantable neuromodulation devices to target Crohn’s Disease and rheumatoid arthritis, according to its website. Its science is based on the inflammatory reflex,a series of actions initiated by the central nervous system when inflammation, tissue injury or infection are detected. So far it’s done a first-in-human, open label, proof-of-concept trial for rheumatoid arthritis.

Update SetPoint said today that it raised $27 million in a financing round that included new investors Boston Scientific and Covidien Ventures as well as GSK. They joined SetPoint’s current investors including Morgenthaler Ventures, Foundation Medical Partners and Topspin Partners.

Among the milestones it’s hoping to reach with the investment are: carrying out a randomized trial with a larger population of patients with rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease. It will also complete the development of its proprietary therapy system. It will also submit an application for a CE mark in the next 18 months, according to CEO Anthony Arnold.