Google partners with GlaxoSmithKline on $700 million ‘bioelectronic’ venture

Posted at 1:30 PM, Aug 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-01 13:30:55-04

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Forget pills. Alphabet wants to cure what ails you by focusing on electrical signals.

Google’s parent company is partnering with GlaxoSmithKline, the leading British pharmaceutical firm, to launch a new company to develop “bioelectronic medicines,” according to a joint announcement Monday.

The two companies plan to pump as much as $700 million over the next seven years into the new venture, to be called Galvani Bioelectronics. Alphabet’s life sciences division, Verily, will own 45% of the venture.

Bioelectronic medicine is a new area of research focused on implanting tiny devices that can alter electrical signals in your nerves to treat chronic conditions like arthritis, asthma and various inflammations.

The promise is that these devices could be more effective and less expensive for the patient than existing treatments.

Google officially launched a standalone business dedicated to life sciences in August 2015, just days after the company announced the corporate restructuring that created Alphabet. It rebranded as Verily in December.

“They’ll continue to work with other life sciences companies to move new technologies from early stage R&D to clinical testing — and, hopefully — transform the way we detect, prevent and manage disease,” Sergey Brin, Google’s cofounder, wrote in a post announcing the new division last year.

Alphabet previously partnered with Johnson & Johnson to develop better robotic tools for surgeries.

These efforts are ambitious for a company that built its name helping people search the Internet rather than helping doctors search for cures. Early efforts to develop smart contact lenses and a Star Trek-style diagnostic device have been panned by some in the scientific community as more hype than reality.

There is real money at stake here for Google, however. Verily, along with Nest and Google Fiber, are the three businesses within Alphabet’s risky “Other Bets” division that are said to actually be generating some revenue.

Alphabet reported a net loss of $859 million on that division, which also includes expensive endeavors like self-driving cars, for the quarter ending in June.