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Alphabet’s Verily Launches Study to Map “Average” Humans (GOOG)

Alphabet Inc.  subsidiary Verily is beginning a health study that could have a significant impact on the healthcare industry and its balance sheet. Project Baseline intends to map the nuts and bolts of an “average” human through an assortment of diverse inputs from genetic data to blood samples to medical images over the next four years. The study started in 2014 with a pilot of 200 patients. Beginning today, Verily intends to expand the study to up to 10,000 volunteers, who will provide data for the tests through their electronic health records and body monitoring devices, such as sleep sensors and special wristwatches to measure heart rates and sweat. (See also: Google’s 6 Most Profitable Lines Of Business).

In an interview with tech publication The Verge, the company’s advisory board member Adrian Hernandez said Project Baseline is “aiming to build an early discovery platform.” In simple words, this means that it intends to detect subtle changes in multiple areas, including genetic markers, to predict the onset of disease or aggravating symptoms. This could also possibly lead to cures for diseases and provide a more comprehensive picture of the genetic and environmental factors that constitute the health makeup of humans. A Bloomberg article about the same topic casts Verily’s test as a sign that it is toning down its rhetoric about “moonshots” and growing up as a company. It quotes the company’s CEO Andy Conrad as saying that the company “grew up”. In practical terms, this means that company is setting goals and getting involved in the drudgery to reach its goal, the article states. (See also: GlaxoSmithKline And Alphabet Partner To Start Bioelectronics Company)

Verily is one of the few divisions within Alphabet’s “Other Bets” group of companies that contributes to its top line. The current test could also help multiply revenues. The Verge’s article states that the company intends to “share” data from the tests with industry partners and research institutions. Pharmaceutical companies may also be provided “access” to the data, though the terms of access are yet to be defined. As the article notes, several notable companies, such as 23andme and Ancestry LLC make a bulk of their revenues through such means. Separately, Verily is also working with Dexcom, Inc.  to develop smaller version of its glucose monitors that it intends to bring to market next year. By 2020, the partnership should yield glucose monitors that are the size of a guitar pick and have a thickness that is equal to mouse pads. The smaller monitors will reduce their cost as well, making them available to a larger population.


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