When some Silicon Valley executives say they want to make the world a better place, some get closer than others at actually doing it. Verily, an Alphabet company that existed as Google Life Sciences before the creation of Alphabet, the Larry Page-led holding company, has recently reemerged, guns blazing, on the medical scene. Its singular mission: preventing disease.
The bread and butter of Verily is the idea that it’s not going to take only one discipline to intervene and cure disease. It consists of hardware, software, clinical, and science teams — as well as staff philosopher. Verily hopes that with this melding of minds, health care can become a proactive, rather than reactive, business.
Here’s how Alphabet reintroduced Verily via this YouTube video on Monday:
One of Verily’s projects — a continuation of its work when it existed as Google Life Sciences — is the not-so-easy task of determining the “baseline” of human health — the identification of what biomarkers make for a completely healthy person. That baseline will be determined from the data of 175 people, although obvious variations occur between people.
Dr. Jessica Mega, Verily’s Chief Medical Officer, thinks it is easier now to determine this baseline than ever before.
“We’re currently in a very active pilot phase to try to get all the pieces to come together (for that kind of challenge) — trying to combine deep molecular data, clinical data, imaging data, and patient engagement,” explained Mega to STAT at the beginning of December.
“But we’re working to come up with things that provide actionable information.”
A contact lens with an embedded glucose sensor, designed to aide those with diabetes, is exactly the sort of product Mega is describing. Verily is already partnering with European drug maker Novartis to create this product. The lens is part of the company’s benchmark goals of creating small devices that can monitor health conditions.
Other current projects include developing bio-molecular nanotechnology to improve “precision diagnostics and therapeutic delivery,” as well as improving imaging methods that could be applied to early diagnosis mechanisms and surgical robots.
Verily CEO Andy Conrad says that his goal for the company is to shift away from conventional medical technologies and use his multidisciplinary team to figure out the roots of disease prevention.
“We have to understand the ‘why’ of what people do,” Conrad told STAT. “A philosopher might be as important as a chemist.”