Google parent Alphabet makes foray into futuristic biotech | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 01.08.2016
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Google parent Alphabet makes foray into futuristic biotech

Miniscule implants treating illnesses by steering our nervous system - what still sounds like a sci-fi dream might soon be reality. Bioelectronics is there to change medicine. And now Google is at its forefront.

Google's parent company Alphabet and pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced on Monday they would join forces to champion a new medical field.

They will forge a company called Galvani Bioelectronics, which develops tiny implants that wrap around nerves to modify their electrical signals.

The hope is that, in doing so, the novel devices could fight chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis or asthma.

Kris Famm, GSK's head of bioelectronics research, said they had already seen "promising results" in animal tests and were now focusing on "bringing that work into the clinic."

"Our goal is to have our first medicines ready for regulatory approval in seven years," he told news agency Reuters.

While he predicted first-generation implants to be as small as a medical pill, the aim was to shrink them to the size of a grain of rice.

Investment amid Brexit worries

Alphabet's business unit Verily Life Sciences (VLS) and Britain's biggest drugmaker together pledged 640 million euros ($715 million) towards the joint venture over the next seven years.

GSK will hold 55 percent and VLS the remaining 45 percent of the new company, which will be based in Stevenage north of London. A second research hub will be in San Franciso.

Only last week, GSK had announced they would open three new drug factories on home soil.

Amid economic concerns in the wake of the Brexit vote, the United Kingdom's Business Minister Greg Clark called the investment "a clear vote of confidence in Britain."

mrk/hg (Reuters, AFP)

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