Life sciences slated as first Alphabet spinout after Google reorg

Tools

Life sciences will be a keystone to the newly reconceptualized Google. Under the umbrella of the parent company Alphabet, life sciences will be the first standalone company to stand shoulder to shoulder with the search engine-focused Google.

Google's Larry Page

That's according to an Aug. 20 blog post by Sergey Brin, who will be the president of Alphabet. He also said that Andy Conrad, who is the head of Google Life Sciences, will be the company's CEO. But Brin didn't divulge a name for the new life sciences company. Google Life Sciences has more than 150 scientists.

Conrad joined Google X in early 2013 from LabCorp ($LH) where he had been CSO. In 1991, he co-founded the National Genetics Institute, which became one of the world's largest genetics labs. It was acquired by LabCorp in 2000. Conrad is also a member of the recently formed Precision Medicine Initiative Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the National Institutes of Health Director.

The news shouldn't come as too much of a surprise--given the slew of big life sciences moves that Google ($GOOG) has made in the last few years. In the original Alphabet announcement, Life Sciences and the longevity-focused Calico were specifically called out by newly designated Alphabet CEO Larry Page as examples of businesses that are far afield from the original Google search engine business.

Google and Novartis' glucose-sensing contact lens--Courtesy of Google

The Brin blog and Page announcement both highlighted the glucose-sensing contact lens on which Google partnered with Novartis in July 2014. That makes it a likely candidate for the first moonshot Google X project to bear tangible fruit. Brin noted that Google X first undertook to "put computing inside a contact lens" starting three years ago.

He also highlighted a few of other life sciences projects that it has undertaken: "a nanodiagnostics platform, a cardiac and activity monitor, and the Baseline Study."

Google first detailed its nanodiagnostics project last fall. At the time, it said the vision was for nanotechnology-enabled detection of cancer and other diseases. It would involve a swarm of nanoparticles, less than one-thousandth of the width of a red blood cell, which could each fasten onto a cell, protein or other molecule in the body. But Google acknowledged then that it would take at least 5 to 7 years to gain a product from this ambitious effort.

The Baseline Study is also a diagnostics effort, as well as potentially a drug development one--in which researchers have been trolling through urine, blood, saliva and tears of thousands of people searching for novel biomarkers.

Google's health-tracking wristband device--Courtesy of Google

Finally, the most recently disclosed effort is the cardiac and activity monitor. This nabbed copious attention last month. At that time, Conrad told Bloomberg that the aim is for it specifically to become an approved medical device.

"Our intended use is for this to become a medical device that's prescribed to patients or used for clinical trials," he said.

As for Brin, here's how he summed up the mission of an independently operating Google Life Sciences: "While the reporting structure will be different, their goal remains the same. They'll continue to work with other life sciences companies to move new technologies from early stage R&D to clinical testing--and, hopefully--transform the way we detect, prevent, and manage disease."

He added, "The team is relatively new but very diverse including software engineers, oncologists, and optics experts. This is the type of company we hope will thrive as part of Alphabet and I can't wait to see what they do next."

- here is the Brin blog post

Related Articles:
Google joins forces with Dexcom for miniaturized glucose monitor
Google takes deeper dive into med tech with health-tracking wristband
Google goes after nanotech-enabled disease detection
Novartis and Google team up to develop smart contact lenses
Google's Study Kit to advance Baseline Study health research project
What does Google's corporate shuffle mean for its biotech ambitions?