Key Apple digital health researcher set to join the Gates Foundation — report
Last week, Apple revealed it was working with Eli Lilly on detecting dementia in its early stages — and now a co-author of the study is reportedly heading to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The scientist, Andrew Trister, joined Apple in April 2016 in a ‘special projects’ role — before the tech giant’s big ambitions in health care were thrust into the spotlight.
In an interview with CNBC on Friday, Trister confirmed he was departing to take on the role of digital health innovation at the Gates Foundation — where he is set to work with entrepreneurs that are thinking of bringing digital health technologies from the United States to developing nations, where smartphones are increasingly becoming all-pervasive. In addition, he will also invest in projects located under-resourced regions, such as rural Africa and India, the report said.
After serving as a radiation oncologist at the University of Washington, Trister took on the role of senior physician at a nonprofit that helps engaging patients in medical research called Sage Bionetworks. In 2014, he joined Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as a clinical researcher, before signing on with Apple.
Early in 2019, Apple $AAPL chief Tim Cook predicted that in the future, his company’s greatest contribution would be its impact on health. The latest iteration of Apple Watch contains a simple electrocardiogram able to detect signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib) — a common heart condition that raises the risk of stroke and is typically seen in the elderly.
Apple has sunk its talons into the health care industry, having forged relationships with academia, drug/device makers and insurers. Apart from Lilly $LLY, the company has joined forces with Johnson & Johnson $JNJ to test the diagnosis and outcomes of AFib patients in a clinical trial; last year it partnered with medical device maker Zimmer Biomet $ZBH in a bid to use the health data captured by the watch to determine why some patients recover faster from knee and hip replacements; and in 2017, the company tied up with Stanford University to evaluate previous editions of the watch in a large-scale heart study.
But some of Apple’s health recruits have left the iPhone maker in recent years. Last month, health insurer Anthem poached Apple’s Warris Bokhari; Last year, Apple’s Robin Goldstein departed for self-driving start-up Zoox and Anil Sethi left to start health-tech company; and Stephen Friend made his exit in 2017 to become an independent entrepreneur, CNBC reported.
Gates entered the disaster-prone field of Alzheimer’s in late 2017, committing $50 million of his nonprofit foundation’s funds and a matching amount from his personal fortune to invest in a fresh approach to fight the disease — urging researchers to go back to the drawing board in their quest to understand the etiology of the disease. Months ago, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and his estranged wife injected $15 million to the $35 million haul Bill Gates raised for the diagnostics work being done by the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.