GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has launched Action Potential Venture Capital Limited, a new $50-million strategic venture-capital fund that will invest in companies that pioneer bioelectronic medicines and technologies. The fund’s first investment will be in SetPoint Medical, a California company that develops implantable devices to treat inflammatory diseases. The fund complements the work of GSK’s Bioelectronics R&D unit, which was established in 2012.
The name of the fund comes from electric signals called action potentials that pass along the nerve cells in the body. Irregular or altered patterns of these impulses may occur in association with a broad range of diseases. GSK believes that miniaturized devices, or bioelectronic medicines, can be designed to read these patterns. The devices could be designed to interface between the peripheral nervous system and specific organs to read, change, or generate electronic impulses to help treat diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory diseases, and metabolic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes.
Action Potential Venture Capital intends to build a portfolio of five to seven companies over the next five years. The fund will focus investments in three areas: new start-up companies focused on bioelectric medicines, existing companies with technologies that are interacting with the peripheral nervous system through devices that stimulate black electrical impulses, and companies advancing technology platforms that will underpin these treatment modalities. Action Potential Venture Capital will be based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
GSK’s Bioelectronics R&D unit will be supporting the development of a new bioelectronics research community in three ways over the coming months. In addition to working with the new venture fund, the unit is in the process of offering up to 20 new exploratory research grants and creating a network of investigators. Discovery work has begun on the relationship between the nerves in the body and a range of diseases, the particular pattern of impulses along these nerves, and new technologies that can interface with individual nerve fibers.
GSK’s first investment from the fund, SetPoint Medical, is based in Valencia, California. SetPoint is developing an approach to treat inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, by using implantable devices that stimulate the body’s vagus nerve.