The Future of Pharmaceuticals Could Be Electronic Implants


It may be a long shot, but why not try it? British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) believes the next big wave in medicine will be electroceuticals, a buzzword the company has coined for a technology that would use electrical impulses—rather than the chemicals or biological molecules found in today’s pharmaceuticals—to treat diseases.

Its vision involves more than simply taking medical devices like heart pacemakers—which use electric waveforms to activate or block bundles of nerve cells—to the next level, claims Kristoffer Famm, head of bioelectronics research at GSK. The company is aiming for something much more radical: connecting thousands of tightly packed individual nerve cells with electrodes and associated circuitry to read and interpret the “code” in the collection of nerve-cell fibers that constitute a nerve, and then modulating the code to restore a specific function to a healthy state. “No treatments like this even remotely exist today,” says Famm. “The medicine will speak the body’s language.” [Read More]