EUROPE – Giant pharma company, Merck and Innervia Bioelectronics, a start-up and subsidiary of Inbrain Neuroelectronics have partnered to co-develop nex-gen smart neurostimulators for the treatment of severe chronic diseases, graphene-based bioelectronic vagus nerve therapies.

Merck will leverage and build on its data science, clinical, regulatory and quality expertise as well as its bioelectronics research facilities while Innvervia will add its technical expertise in the development of graphene interfaces, device development and signal processing for clinical applications.

Initially, the two companies will focus on inflammatory, metabolic and endocrine disorders by targeting miniaturization, precision and high modulation efficiency in the vagus nerve.

Altered and dysregulated nerve signals occur with many severe chronic diseases and Bioelectronic therapies aim to address a wide range of chronic diseases using small, implantable devices to modulate electrical signals passing along nerves in the body.

Furthermore, neurostimulation devices are expected to become increasingly smart as a result of additional features such as continuous readouts, data analysis and data transmission, which will increase the energy use of the device. Yet at the same time, the devices are expected to miniaturize further.

These trends are creating significant challenges for the supply of power to these devices. In addition, certain indications have particularly high and continuous power requirements due to the specific disease characteristics.

With current technologies, it is extremely difficult to develop viable neurostimulation therapies for these indications.

Improving the energy efficiency of these devices will play an important role in overcoming this power supply dilemma, since alternatives such as energy harvesting are still in their infancy and are far from practical clinical applications.

Reduced Graphene Oxide (rGO) offers material characteristics for significantly decreasing power consumption while maintaining stimulation efficacy.

This is achieved through a high charge injection limit combined with very low impedance compared with all other available electrode materials.

Merck has been aggressive with bioelectronics related research and just a week ago, it joined forces with yet another company neuroloop, a unit of medtech firm B Braun to develop neurostimulator devices purposed to treat inflammatory diseases.

In this previous collaboration, the German giant pharma company, Merck and neuroloop are set to focus on chronic conditions like arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Merck believe bioelectronics is a game changer and has great potential to be a tool that can be used  to monitor disease conditions.