GSK Looks to Bioelectronic Medicine as Patents Expire

GSK_Building-1.pngThe UK government may have sought to close down ongoing speculation about the future of the country following the vote to leave the EU, as Theresa May spells out that she is not prepared to give a running commentary on negotiations. However, business goes on - not least in the pharmaceuticals and healthcare sector, where the UK currently enjoys the third highest share of R&D investment in this area globally. Indeed, following the Brexit vote, GSK committed £275 million of investment to its three factories in Britain, and last month tied up an agreement with a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, to establish a new UK-based joint venture, Galvani Bioelectronics.

In this new venture, it’s reported that GSK will own 55% of Galvani Bioelectronics, while Verily, the life sciences division of Alphabet will hold the remaining 45%. GSK’s interest in bioelectronic medicine comes following mounting pressure to find new patentable areas as one of its key drugs, Advair, and importantly now its delivery method, comes off-patent. It is expected that this will lead to a flood of generic versions of the treatment to hit the market.  An article appearing in yesterday’s ‘Proactive Investors,’ reports that this development represents a huge opportunity for respiratory specialists Vectura Group plc and its partner Hikma pharmaceuticals. The developments highlight the critical need to be able to search for, and identify expiring patents, methods for which we recently explored in our white paper ‘Generic Pharmaceuticals and Expiring Patents.’

Bioelectronic medicine aims to treat diseases using electricity instead of chemistry. As GSK describes it: “Bioelectronic medicine is a relatively new scientific field that aims to tackle a wide range of chronic diseases using miniaturised, implantable devices that can modify electrical signals that pass along nerves in the body, including irregular or altered impulses that occur in many illnesses.”  The area has also been growing steadily in terms of the number of patents, with Boston Scientific Neuromodulation having the most patents. This part of the business grew by 12% in Q2 2016, compared to last year.

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As well as the Regents of University of California, Tanita Corporation and Medtronic are also key patent filers in the space. Tanita specialises in body composition and health monitor equipment, which is one of the biggest IPC areas relating to this technology, while Medtronic, which recently opened a new office in Vietnam, works in collaboration with major healthcare providers, supplying medical technologies, services and solutions. 

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