GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) officials announced a $1 million dollar prize for innovation in the emerging area of bioelectronics research. The prize will be awarded to the scientists who are first able to solve the challenge of creating a miniaturized, fully implantable device that can read, write, and block the body’s electrical signals to treat disease. It is hoped that finding a solution to this challenge will open and accelerate significant avenues of research in this field. The scientific challenge was developed and agreed by a group of approximately 150 leading scientists from around the world, brought together by GSK’S Bioelectronics R&D unit at a summit earlier this month in New York. Collectively, summit attendees agreed that if they create an implantable wireless device that can record, stimulate and block neural signals to a single organ, it will be a critical factor enabling the onward development of bioelectronic medicines as a future therapeutic reality.
GSK’s Bioelectronics R&D unit 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. GSK believes that these devices could be programmed to read and correct the electrical signals that pass along the nerves of the body, including irregular or altered impulses that can occur in association with a broad range of diseases. The hope is that through these devices, disorders as diverse as inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, asthma, hypertension and diabetes could be treated.
The Bioelectronic Medicines Summit is one of a range of initiatives established by GSK in 2013 to stimulate research, recognizing that bioelectronics development will require the combined skills of world-leading engineers, biologists, neuroscientists and informatics experts.
A committee comprised of independent academic and GSK scientists will now agree the parameters by which the challenge will be met so that the award can be triggered. Those parameters will be published / posted online on Feb. 1, 2014 on www.gsk.com/bioelectronics.
First wave of exploratory bioelectronics research collaborations signed
Earlier this year, GSK announced it was offering exploratory research project funding to academic groups working in the field of bioelectronics. Fifteen such projects have now been agreed with academics with six collaborations already signed in the US, The Netherlands and Portugal. The institutions signing contracts with GSK Bioelectronics R&D are:
- Feinstein Institute, US: Rheumatoid arthritis and inflammation sensing (two projects)
- University of Pennsylvania, US: Detection of disease signatures in neural signalling patterns
- Duke University, US: Overactive bladder
- Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Inflammatory bowel disease
- NOVA Medical School, NOVA University, Lisbon, Portugal: Type 2 diabetes
This program intends to further expand in 2014.
Watch a video describing bioelectronic medicines, including an animation that illustrates how they might work.