GE brings good things to bioelectronics research

Charged up: GE is lighting things up at the Feinstein Institute's Center for Bioelectronic Medicine.

General Electric is giving the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research a bioelectronic jolt.

The Feinstein Institute, R&D mecca of the Northwell Health system, announced a new “strategic alliance” Tuesday with GE Ventures, the multinational conglomerate’s New Jersey-based business-licensing and equity arm.

While no financial terms were disclosed, Northwell Health did note an “investment” that will help the Feinstein Institute’s evolving Center for Bioelectronic Medicine “continue its work in discovering, developing and commercializing new diagnostic and therapeutic solutions in bioelectronic medicine for a wide range of acute and chronic diseases and injuries.”

Sue Siegel: Breaking new ground.

Under the guiding hand of President and CEO Kevin Tracey, the Feinstein Institute is regarded as a global leader in bioelectronics – and some insiders see the GE partnership as a virtual bouquet to the man considered the father of nerve-stimulation science.

In a statement announcing the alliance, Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling noted the potential to “unlock the promise of the discoveries made under Dr. Kevin Tracey’s leadership.”

“The world looks to GE for innovative leadership in industrial and digital engineering and manufacturing,” Dowling said. “And it looks to the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research as the intellectual home of the emerging field of bioelectronic medicine.”

Chad Bouton, a brain-wave expert and 2010 Battelle Inventor of the Year who in 2015 was named director of the Feinstein Institute’s CBEM, noted “an incredibly exciting time to be in this field.”

“GE’s collaboration with the Feinstein Institute brings critical mass to our efforts in terms of resources, knowhow and partnerships,” Bouton said Tuesday. “In just a few years, we will look back on this agreement as the moment when bioelectronic medicine took off.”

The new alliance will build upon groundbreaking bioelectronics work already begun by Feinstein Institute researchers working with scientists at GE Global Research, General Electric’s main R&D Center in Nikayuna, a town in upstate Schenectady County.

But it will be based at Feinstein’s Manhasset headquarters, which will collaborate closely with the upstate team on the development of new bioelectronic treatments for cancer, diabetes, hypertension and a host of neurodegenerative diseases – “groundbreaking discoveries to bring patients new diagnostic and therapeutic solutions,” according to GE Ventures CEO Sue Siegel.

“This alliance deepens and expands the strong collaborative relationship between GE and the Feinstein Institute, and on the tremendous work already accomplished by Dr. Kevin Tracey, Chad Bouton, GE scientists and other leaders in the field,” Siegel said Tuesday.

Kevin Tracey: Speeding things up.

Tracey – a neurosurgeon credited with discovering the inflammatory reflex, the natural mechanism by which the central nervous system regulates the body’s immune system – has spent nearly two decades writing the book on bioelectronic medicine, which converges neuroscience, bioengineering and both molecular and cellular biology.

With an ultimate goal of replacing pharmaceutical treatments with targeted nerve-stimulation treatments, research based on Tracey’s discoveries has shown low-level electric pulses to be effective treatments for a host of ailments, including high blood pressure and arthritis.

Other potential applications – and spinoff commercial ventures – abound, targeting everything from chronic disease to pain relief to stanching blood loss in the operating room.

Tracey – who is also cofounder of California-based biotech SetPoint Medical, which has commercialized “implantable neuromodulation devices” for the treatment of inflammatory diseases – has already benefitted from $75 million in capital investments from Northwell Health, supporting his “underlying research,” according to the health system.

Now, the pioneer and his research teams will bring GE Ventures’ economic and scientific might to bear – good news for the CBEM’s efforts to identify, test and refine new bioelectronic treatments, and to create new companies that bring potentially life-changing solutions to market.

Noting years of “strong collaboration” with GE, Tracey said Tuesday that the strategic alliance “builds on that strong foundation to expand the Center for Bioelectronic Medicine.”

“Our field is growing rapidly,” the neurosurgeon noted. “It is only a matter of time before we can bring new therapies from the laboratory workbench to the patient’s bedside.

“Our partnership with GE now quickens the pace and brings the promise of our research and experiments closer to being fully realized.”

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