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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Alphabet Google takes Deeper Dive into Med Tech with Health Tracking and Life Sciences X-Lab

The news that Google was forming it's own holding company this week overshadowed important developments in Google's LifeSciences Xlab.

Google ($GOOG) has not wasted any time since launching its life sciences division group a couple of years ago, sinking funds into med tech projects to expand its reach in wearable health. Now the company is charging full speed ahead with one of its initiatives, developing a health-tracking wristband device with its eye on FDAapproval.

The product, which is being developed through the company's Google X research unit, measures pulse, heart rhythm and skin temperature and gauges environmental information like light exposure and noise levels, giving doctors and researchers minute-by-minute data on patients' physical states,  Google already offers health-monitoring smartwatch features through its Android Wear software platform, but its health-tracking wristband will not be marketed as a consumer device, Andy Conrad, head of the company's life sciences team, told the news outlet. "Our intended use is for this to become a medical device that's prescribed to patients or used for clinical trials," he said.

Google's wristband could offer an advantage over other health-tracking methods, which often rely on patient compliance and visits to the lab to amass data. The company's wristband would collect information continuously, allowing drugmakers, physicians and scientists to track patients' vital signs outside of a lab setting. If all goes to plan, the device could be used as a prevention tool to catch early signs of disease, Conrad said.
"I envision a day, in 20 or 30 years, where physicians give it to all patients," he said (as quoted by Bloomberg). "Prevention means all the time."

Next up, Google plans to team up with academic researchers and drugmakers to test the wristband, kicking off its first trials over the summer, company spokeswoman Jacquelyn Miller told Bloomberg. And the company could also be in the market for a manufacturing partner, Conrad said, echoing last year's deal with Novartis ($NVS) to license and commercialize its smart contact lenses for diabetes.

Meanwhile, Google continues to roll out new projects and strike deals with industry heavyweights to beef up its presence in life sciences. In October, Google X revealed a project to design tiny magnetic particles that screen for cancer and other diseases. Earlier this year, the company said it would team up with Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) to create a robotic-assisted surgical platform for minimally invasive procedures.

Google and Google Ventures have deep pockets,,already investing In 2014, Google investing more than one-third of its $425 million venture fund into healthcare and life sciences companies, 

Four years ago when Google pulled its personal health record everyone thought they had lost interest in health care.  Far from it, Google saw early on the lack of enthusiasm on the part of consumer/patients.  They don't want to populate their own PHR....they want it done for them.

 For one, Google sees an explosion of potential in the space thanks to the rise of genomics and availability of patient data

Google Ventures isn't getting into specifics on its life sciences strategy, but if the group's existing portfolio is any indication, it'll have a genomic bent. Among Google's beneficiaries are 23andMe, Foundation Medicine ($FMI), DNAnexus andFlatiron Health, companies that sequence, analyze and index genomic data. But the company has placed plenty of bets on more traditional biotech outfits, as well, including antibody specialist Adimab, large-molecule developer Rani Therapeutics and iPierian, since acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) for up to $725 million.

Google's deeper dive into life sciences goes beyond its venture arm. Last year, the company expanded its secretive, R&D-focused Google X unit to include a dedicated life sciences team, spurring rumors that the tech giant is planning to make major waves in the field of wearable health devices.

And then there's Calico, a Google-funded biotech with the vague mission of battling aging and a star-studded staff to lead the effort. Short for California Life Company, the startup got off the ground last year with Genentech veterans Art Levinson and Hal Barron leading a team of well-regarded researchers, and Calico has since inked a research deal with AbbVie ($ABBV) to get rolling on an R&D operation that could cost up to $1.5 billion.

And then there is this:
Google signs on Harvard doc to lead bioinformatics study

Jessica Mega M.D. Associate Clinical Professor of Cardiology at Harvard Medical School,  a physician and  at Boston, MA-based Brigham and Women's Hospital, joined Google's Google X research arm to head up its Baseline study, which aims to collect a broad swath of information from hundreds of samples to find disease biomarkers and provide a comprehensive map of the human body, Forbes reports. Researchers will use software algorithms and computing to sift through the data, allowing scientists to more easily access medical information and potentially identify diseases sooner. She is an authority on blood coagulation disorders, a major component of coronary artery disease and acute coronary syndrome.

"Dr. Mega has all the skills and temperament to lead this effort for Google, which will break new ground for precision medicine and complement the Precision Medicine Initiative," Dr. Robert Califf, vice chancellor at Duke University's School of Medicine and a researcher on the study, told Forbes. "Her scientific knowledge, experience in clinical trials and positive personality are a great fit."

Meanwhile, Google continues to forge ahead with new initiatives through its Google X arm. The company teamed up with pharma giant Novartis ($NVS) last July to develop smart contact lenses for continuous glucose monitoring for diabetes patients. In October, Google X revealed a project to design tiny magnetic particles that screen for cancer and other diseases. The company plans to develop a wearable device with a magnet to attract and count the particles, providing a new monitoring tool for physicians.

"Every test you ever go to the doctor for will be done through this system," Andrew Conrad, head of the Life Sciences team at the Google X research lab, told theWSJ at the time. "That is our dream." But the company could face some technological challenges along the way, such as identifying coatings that help the particles bind to specific cells and creating a small, battery-friendly device that doesn't need frequent recharging.

Google takes deeper dive into med tech with health-tracking wristband - FierceMedicalDevices

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