GlaxoSmithKline has launched a $50 million venture capital fund that will invest in companies that pioneer medicines using electrical impulses to regulate the body's organs and functions.
The fund, called Action Potential Venture Capital, will complement the work of GSK’s Bioelectronics R&D unit, which was established in 2012 "after a two-year effort to seek out and engage the most promising researchers in this emerging area of science". The company believes miniaturised devices can be designed to read, change or generate electronic impulses that may help treat a multitude of disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory diseases and diabetes.
GSK acknowledges that the field of bioelectronic medicines is in its very early stages but its ambition, "through collaboration with scientists globally, is to have the first medicine that speaks the electrical language of our body ready for approval by the end of this decade".
The first investment by the fund, which will be based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will be in SetPoint Medical, a California company which GSK says "is considered a trailblazer in creating implantable devices to treat inflammatory diseases". SetPoint also noted that it has raised $27 million in financing from current investors along with new backers Boston Scientific, Covidien Ventures and the new GSK fund.
Moncef Slaoui, GSK's R&D chief, said that "we want to help create the medicines of the future and be the catalyst for this work". He added that the company "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".
Action Potential Venture Capital intends to build a portfolio of five to seven companies over the next five years.