$1m prize for innovation in field of ‘electroceuticals’

11 April 2013
By Edd Gent
Mobile version
Share |
GlaxoSmithKline is offering a $1m prize to stimulate innovation in the field of “electroceuticals”

GlaxoSmithKline is offering a $1m prize to stimulate innovation in the field of “electroceuticals”

Britain's biggest drug maker is offering a $1m prize to stimulate innovation in the field of “electroceuticals”.

As well as the prize GlaxoSmithKline will fund up to 40 researchers working in external laboratories in the field, which aims to develop new ways of treating diseases by targeting electrical signals in the body.

The initiative is a long-term gamble on the promise of a new kind of medicine, using electrical impulses rather than the chemicals or biological molecules found in today's drugs, but GSK believes it is ahead of rivals in the emerging area and, given the early-stage nature of the work, the drugmaker aims to play a coordinating role in bringing researchers together.

Exploiting the potential of the new field will involve combining skills from biology, computing, material science and nanotechnology, including devising new kinds of miniature power sources.

GSK will host a global forum in December to bring research leaders together and collectively identify one key hurdle in the field and the $1m prize will go to the research group able to overcome that hurdle.

"At GlaxoSmithKline and in academia, we are confident that this field will deliver real medicines, and we are mobilising resources for this journey," GSK head of bioelectronics research Kristoffer Famm and colleagues wrote in the journal Nature.

The new field of "electroceuticals" has grabbed the attention of a number of academic research groups, which are already mapping neural circuits in animals and humans, and working on potential interventions for testing in clinical trials.

Academic centres involved in the research effort include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania and the Feinstein Institute of Medical Research.

The idea is to use the electrical impulses that form the "language" of the body's nervous system to address a range of diseases, from high blood pressure to breathing problems and, eventually, brain disorders.

Moncef Slaoui, chairman of GSK research and development, said bioelectronics was set to be the next big wave in medicine, comparable to the rise in biological therapies over the past 15 years triggered by advances in biotechnology.

"This is our vision for the next 10 to 20 years," he said. "In the future, a big chunk of R&D will be doing bioelectronics."

The concept is not completely new. Large-scale electrical devices have been used for years as heart pacemakers and, more recently, electrical stimulation has been applied to treat Parkinson's disease, severe depression and some neurological disorders, as well as to improve bladder control.

St Jude Medical, for example, on Wednesday won European approval for a brain implant to treat an incurable neurological condition called dystonia, while nerve-deadening devices have also been shown to reduce stubbornly high blood pressure.

But in future GSK wants to apply electrical interventions at the micro level by targeting specific cells within neural circuits, which could lead to novel nanoscale implants to coax insulin from cells to treat diabetes or correct muscle imbalances in lung diseases or regulate food intake in obesity.

The approach could also one day be used to treat disorders of the brain itself – assuming scientists can decipher the hugely complex neural circuitry involved.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1605

"We visit Barcelona, one of the smartest cities in the world, to find out what makes it so special. What does it look like and what is the future?"

E&T jobs

  • Senior Development Engineer, Electronics

    Premium job

    Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation
    • Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
    • Competitive

    We are an innovative, robust and fast growing business, whose main focus is to deliver continues improvement to existing products and offer new sol..

    • Recruiter: Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation

    Apply for this job

  • Smart Grid Research Engineer

    Premium job

    University of Strathclyde
    • Cumbernauld, Glasgow
    • Grade: 6/7* £26,537 - £37,768*

    Work as part of a growing dynamic team on a wide range of technical projects with particular emphasis on experimental validation and testing

    • Recruiter: University of Strathclyde

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Asset Specialist

    Affinity Water
    • Hatfield, Hertfordshire

    Responsible for updating and writing electrical engineering standards, approved codes of practice and safe systems of work

    • Recruiter: Affinity Water

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Electronics Engineer

    York Instruments
    • York, North Yorkshire

    Senior electronics engineer to work as part of a team developing an MEG imaging system; working with the engineering team and external contractors.

    • Recruiter: York Instruments

    Apply for this job

  • Manufacturing Engineer - Circuit Card Assembly

    • Lostock Junction
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What’s the opportunity?   Manufacturing UK is an integral part of the Operations Directorate whose principal mission is to ensure that MBDA’s deliverable commitments are met...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • High Voltage Engineer

    Premium job

    Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment
    • Great Dunmow, Essex

    This High Voltage Engineer will provide design leadership for high voltage cable assemblies up to one megavolt.

    • Recruiter: Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment

    Apply for this job

  • Team Leader - Flank Arrays

    BAE Systems
    • Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria, England
    • Negotiable

    Team Leader - Flank Arrays Would you like to work in a unique role within the construction of the Astute Class submarines? We currently have a vacancy for a Team Leader - Flank Arrays at our site in Barrow-in-Furness. As a Team Leader - Flank Arrays, you

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics and Software Engineer

    Copley Scientific Ltd
    • Nottingham
    • circa £35,000 per annum + bonus

    Develop new test equipment for the pharmaceutical industry. Good opportunities to grow and develop. Successful family-owned and managed business.

    • Recruiter: Copley Scientific Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Bridge Test Facility Manager

    BAE Systems
    • Shropshire, Telford, England
    • Negotiable

    Bridge Test Facility ManagerWe currently have a vacancy for a Bridge Test Facility Manager at our site in Telford with our Land UK business.As the Bridge Test Facility Manager, you will be part of our Test & Trials team, working closely with the Mili

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Intelligent Transport Systems Engineer - Highways Technology

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Birmingham, West Midlands

    Our transport technology team in Birmingham is currently growing a highly skilled and customer-focused team to...

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶


Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T