The functions and organ systems of our body are, to a significant extent, controlled by electrical signals that travel along the nerves. Bioelectronic medicines will aim to control biological processes and treat disease by modulating these electrical impulses.
They will be micro-scale devices that connect to groups of individual neurons or their nerve fibres and modulate the electrical signalling patterns, to restore the healthy status quo of specific organs and functions.
We believe bioelectronic medicines could allow us to address some diseases that have so far been untreatable, and others with greater precision and fewer side effects than with conventional molecular medicines.
Funding research into Bioelectronics
As a sign of our commitment to this new field of research, we are offering several incentives to activate and integrate the research community around the fundamental challenges of developing these new treatments.
For example, through our Exploratory funding programme, we are offering up to 20 new research grants for investigators to begin detailing how nerves in the body are related to particular diseases, to understand the firing patterns of those nerves, and to explore new technologies that will enable us to interface with these nerve fibres.
Through our US$50 million venture capital arm, Action Potential Venture Capital, we are investing in start-ups and technology platofrms that aim to advance the development of bioelectronic medicines.
We have also launched an exciting opportunity for external investigators to contribute to the development of a miniaturized, implantable, wireless, visceral nerve research platform. The first team to demonstrate full functionality of their device according to specified criteria will be awarded a US$1 million prize.
You can find out more about the Bioelectronics R&D we are already doing in this commentary article (PDF) published in the scientific journal Nature.