The right impulses to treat or prevent diseases: Bioelectronic medical devices could enable targeted treatment of chronic diseases and potentially reduce side effects by selectively stimulating distinct nerves.

A future pillar of medicine

Instead of only stimulating, bioelectronic devices have the potential to also monitor the disease condition[1]. Combining nerve signals with other accessible physiological datasets can help create a holistic understanding of disease conditions. This understanding will support better and personalized treatment regimens in the future.

Applying our longstanding material and healthcare expertise will help us to advance this future pillar of medicine, with the aim of bringing new hope to patients with severe and chronic diseases.

Aspects of this include:

  • Bioelectronic treatment regimes in Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany's therapeutic areas Next generation neuro–recording and -stimulation technologies
  • Precise disease targeting leads to personalized medicine
  • Continuous data gathering & analysis allows AI powered solutions for improved patient outcomes

"Bioelectronic devices show great promise in helping to improve therapeutic outcomes and efficiency for patients with chronic inflammatory diseases. By combining our expertise across electronics, medicines and drug delivery with the neurostimulation technologies of our external partners, we aim to create novel modalities to enhance the quality of care for patients in several chronic diseases.” 

Belén Garijo, Chair of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

What are the opportunity areas?

Maximize responder rates through personalization

The pain: Despite clinical data showing efficacy of bioelectronic treatments (e.g. in chronic inflammatory diseases) and approved treatments, the responder rate for bioelectronic treatments are comparably low[2].

The goal: Maximize responder rates by enabling the implanted device to identify the disease relevant nerve signal patterns and subsequently modulate these signals via stimulation. This approach would enable a true personalized treatment.

To solve this challenge, the Bioelectronics team is collaborating with early-stage start-up company neuroloop GmbH, a B. Braun subsidiary. The collaboration seeks to develop a neurostimulator using a differentiated multichannel cuff electrode that allows a highly selective nerve readout and stimulation. They are going to explore whether this setup allows the localization of disease related nerve signals to modulate them accordingly. Learn more about this collaboration here.

Boost energy efficiency to enable new treatments or minimize devices

The pain: Bioelectronic devices face a significant dilemma: They are continuously requiring more power (higher computing power, data communication, stimulation) but at the same time shall become smaller and smaller. These contradicting trends pose difficult questions on the power supply of bioelectronic devices.

The goal: Develop highly energy efficient stimulation/recording approaches which limit the power demand of the devices.

The Bioelectronics team is collaborating with startup company Innervia Bioelectronics, a subsidiary of Inbrain Neuroelectronics, to solve this energy dilemma. By introducing graphene oxide electrodes, the partners explore and develop this technology for the bioelectronic treatment of chronic diseases which would require energy amounts current technologies are unable to satisfy. Learn more about this collaboration here.

The future of Bioelectronics

Today / short term: Increasing number of approved treatments (e.g. epilepsy, PD) using electrical stimulation impulses with no automated bio feedback (open loop)

Midterm: Device Miniaturization and new stimulation modalities with the aim to enable superior treatments for a broad set of indications

Long term: New materials and technologies to allow for a comprehensive human machine interface enabling personalized and automated treatments

[1] Intellis device Medtronic for spinal cord stimulation for pain; AspireSR and Sentiva from LivaNova for treatment of epilepsy
[2] D’Haens et al., 2019, Gastroenterology, LivaNova device

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Head of Bioelectronics, Innovation Center


Director of Translational Medicine, Innovation Center