SINAPSE bags support for global challenge

06 January 2015 | Research
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A split-ring electrode is used to control and modulate the electrical signalling patterns in specific sets of nerves to address health conditions

After a rigorous review of 25 applications from across the globe, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has selected 10 teams to receive funding support for the Bioelectronics Innovation Challenge, one of which is NUS' Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology (SINAPSE). SINAPSE comprises a group of scientists, clinicians, engineers and students who study topics at the forefront of neuroscience, technology development, and clinical and commercial translation.

The Bioelectronics Innovation Challenge was launched by GSK'one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies'in 2013. It created a $6.6 million (US$5 million) Innovation Challenge Fund, to invite submissions, with the goal of advancing research into bioelectronic medicines by addressing the need to interrogate neural signals in visceral nerves. The first team to create a small, implantable, wireless device that can record, stimulate and block functionally-specific neural signals to and from a specific visceral organ in functional models will be awarded the $1.3 million (US$1 million) prize.

The functions and organ systems of our body are, to a significant extent, controlled by electrical signals that travel along the nerves. The wireless device will work by controlling specific sets of neurons or their nerve fibres, and modulating the electrical signalling patterns to restore healthy states of targeted organs and functions.

This creates the potential to accelerate the discovery and development of new medicines that could address some diseases that have so far been untreatable; and others with greater precision and fewer side effects than with conventional molecular medicines. In comparison, existing devices target large areas of tissue indiscriminately, rather than honing in on specific groups of neurons within circuits.