German pharma company Merck has inked a new deal with Innvervia Bioelectronics to co-develop smart neurostimulators for the treatment of severe chronic diseases.

As part of the collaboration agreement, Merck and Innervia will jointly develop the next-generation of graphene-based bioelectronic vagus nerve therapies targeting diseases within Merck’s target therapy areas.

Merck will leverage and build on its data science, clinical, regulatory and quality expertise – as well as its bioelectronics research facilities – while Innvervia will add its technical expertise in the development of graphene interfaces, device development and signal processing for clinical applications.

Initially, the two companies will focus on inflammatory, metabolic and endocrine disorders by targeting miniaturisation, precision and high modulation efficiency in the vagus nerve.

In many severe chronic diseases, altered and dysregulated nerve signals are found to occur – bioelectronic therapies aim to address these conditions using small, implantable devices to modulate electrical signals passing along nerves in the body.

“Bioelectronic devices have the capability to directly communicate with the nervous system,” said Robert Spoelgen, head of bioelectronics, Merck Innovation Center. “

“Recording nerve signals and combining them with other accessible physiological datasets will lead to a better understanding of disease conditions and enable personalised treatment regimens. We are convinced that bioelectronic devices will play a significant role in the future therapeutic landscape,” he added.

“This partnership highlights the importance of key players in their respective domains joining strengths to develop electronic therapies based on minimally invasive technologies and precise signal coding, enabled by graphene, for patients with debilitating, systemic, chronic conditions,” said Jurriaan Baker, CTO of Innervia Bioelectronics.