Google is reportedly set to collect genetic and molecular information from thousands of people (it’s already done so with 175) to get a better picture of human health.
This is according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, who describes Google’s latest “moonshot” project called Baseline Study. The project is helmed by molecular biologist Andrew Conrad, who has a team of between 70 and 100 people from various fields of study trying to detect things like heart disease and cancer earlier than what’s being accomplished presently, and figure out how to prevent them. From the report:
The project won’t be restricted to specific diseases, and it will collect hundreds of different samples using a wide variety of new diagnostic tools. Then Google will use its massive computing power to find patterns, or “biomarkers,” buried in the information. The hope is that these biomarkers can be used by medical researchers to detect any disease a lot earlier.
Baseline has apparently already been in the works for over a year with clinical testing taking place this summer.
This is only the most recent in a series of ambitious health-related projects from the search and technology giant, who has had its Flu Trends outbreak-tracking project available for years.
Nearly a year ago, Google announced the creation of a company called Calico, aimed at studying aging and the diseases associated with it.
“Illness and aging affect all our families,” Google CEO Larry Page said at the time. “With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives. It’s impossible to imagine anyone better than Art—one of the leading scientists, entrepreneurs and CEOs of our generation—to take this new venture forward.”
While Calico isn’t mentioned as being connected to Baseline in the Journal’s report, it does represent Google’s broader ambitions of using its technology and resources for the good of human well-being.
Another such example would be Google’s contact lens project, which consists of a smart lens designed to help diabetics track blood sugar. The company has actually partnered with Novartis to develop these further, and help get them to market.
Google’s interest in human health is nothing new, but the company seems to have a greater focus on it than any other time in its history, despite having shut down its actual Google Health product a couple years ago.
Genetics are not uncharted territory for the company either. Many years ago, Google worked with noted biologist Craig Venter (one of the first to sequence the human genome) on generating a gene catalog.
Google [x] – Google’s home for these “moonshot” projects – is still in its early years, and has already come up with self-driving cars, Google Glass, the contact lens, and Project Loon (Google’s Internet balloons). The company has already proven the division can accomplish some pretty amazing things. It would not be surprising to see it put an even greater focus on health-related ideas, which could actually improve life as we know it. In fact, according to the Journal’s report, other wearable devices are already being developed to collect other data like heart rates and rhythms and oxygen levels.
Hopefully its robots don’t destroy us all before it’s too late.
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