Verily joins up with Duke, Stanford to enlist an army of consumers to put its next-gen sensor tech to the test — and in the public eye

Verily Study Watch via Verily

What can a new generation of wearable tech and biosensors teach us about disease?

Verily, formerly Google Life Sciences, is developing and marketing this tech. And it’s putting the company right at the crossroads between the biopharma industry and the public.

With considerable fanfare it’s announcing a new program with Duke University and Stanford to recruit 10,000 participants in a study to answer that question — using this new tech to gather data to provide a baseline of information on healthy subjects and how they transition to a disease.

Each of the participants will have their genome sequenced and then tracked for at least four years, with their health data collected and stored in the Google cloud (naturally).

Andy Conrad, Verily

So what does this mean to biopharma? Potentially, quite a lot is at stake here after Verily has struck up deals with a number of major pharmas on disease management.

There’s a recent venture formed with Sanofi — Onduo — to use microelectronics to manage diabetes, a core disease focus for the French pharma giant. GlaxoSmithKline jumped into a $713 million joint venture with Verily to create new nanotech-based bioelectronic therapeutics in a startup called Galvani Bioelectronics. And others have been in discussions on how Verily’s wearable tech can track the course of a disease like, say schizophrenia, to help map a therapeutic regimen for patients.

In this new population health project, investigators plan to gather information on biomarkers linked to disease development, all prime targets for new drug development. And they’ll be using Verily’s new “Study Watch,” unveiled a few days ago and reviewed by Antonio Regalado at MIT Technology Review, which includes an electrocardiogram to study heart rhythms.

This new project not only showcases the technology Verily is selling to a world of consumers avidly interested in monitoring their health. It can provide insights on patients in clinical trials and help direct researchers to new therapies in emerging fields like the microbiome.

Verily is doing this with a more practical approach to health management. Instead of talking about moon shots, Verily’s chief — the colorful Andy Conrad — is focused on taking one careful step at a time toward a big new market.

Now it’s all about “setting the goal and then getting down to the day-to-day practical drudgery,” Conrad told Bloomberg. “If you examine the real moonshot closely, you’ll see a dude whose job is to rivet and a lady whose job is to do some wiring.”

They’re just doing it in a way sure to attract the attention of every media operation in the country.

Verily is already deeply engaged with the industry on pollinating R&D and drug use with its technology. Now they want to get the public’s attention. Early reviews would suggest that they’re off to a strong start.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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