Pills for Immortality: What is known about Google Medical Projects

The end of the fall for Google in the media space was marked by the sign of medicine. First appeared (and confirmed

) rumors about the purchase of Fitbit for $ 2.1 billion,then - that Google secretly collects medical data from American patients using the new service and without their consent. Experts believe that the company plans to seriously compete with Apple, which invests in health development and produces the most popular and best smart watches on the Apple Watch market. But it is possible that Google’s ambitions extend far beyond the wearable electronics market. In any case, this impression develops if you put together what is known about the medical developments of Google. It seems that Google’s ambition includes, if not immortality, then the cure of humanity from incurable diseases and the creation of a single safe space for doctors and patients to interact.

gg has collected what is known about Google's healthcare projects.

Smart Spoons, Lenses, and Robot Surgeons: What Google's Biology Research Department Does

Department of Biological Research at Alphabet -Verily Life Sciences - grew out of a Google Life Sciences research project, which, in turn, left the Google X wing in 2015. The project’s website says that it creates tools for the collection and organization of medical data, and based on them, solutions and platforms that can work with this data. Verily develops gadgets for people suffering from various diseases, as well as research.

The most famous Verily project is, perhaps,contact lenses for diabetics. They were announced at the beginning of 2014, by that time the project was already a year and a half. According to Google, the lenses were supposed to determine the sugar content in tears at intervals of once per second and replace other methods of control for diabetics. But in 2018, the project was closed. Despite the fact that the startup was not one of a kind, Verily reported that the results of the tear analysis are very different from the blood. Therefore, in the near future, the team will focus on other “smart” solutions for people with vision problems and diabetes.

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However, even at the development stage, the project wasquestions. According to the WHO, every 11th inhabitant of the Earth has diabetes. But this is a disease of the poor - people who do not have access to normal, healthy food. And it is unlikely that the poor can afford such an expensive toy as smart lenses.

Unlike lenses, the “smart” Liftware spoon fromVerily still came out in people. Using an accelerometer and a compensation device, the spoon can neutralize hand tremor (the target audience is people with Parkinson's disease, etc.). It was developed by the startup Lift Labs, which was subsequently absorbed by Google. The basic Liftware suite is still available on the project’s website for $ 195, although initially a higher price was announced.

Verily also worked on smart lenses,designed for people with age-related farsightedness and those who have undergone cataract surgery, sensors for detecting atrial fibrillation, their own smart watches, “connected” diapers, blood glucose meters, etc.

Also, within the framework of the unit, projects ondeveloping a medical platform for the early detection of cancer and fragile atherosclerotic plaques using nanotechnology. In 2015, it was possible to create a prototype of artificial skin, as well as a drug consisting of nanoparticles, which responds to the presence of cancer cells or plaques. The technology allows using special wearable devices to determine whether these markers are in the human body.

Google’s recently own divisionHealth introduced an algorithm that can detect 26 types of skin diseases using a camera. It is sharpened for high-precision diagnosis of melanoma and other types of cancer. It gives three possible diagnoses, the accuracy of determination for the first is 71%, for three - 93%.

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In 2015, together with Johnson &Johnson (part of the surgical equipment division), Verily launched the Verb Surgical project to create an automated surgical platform. With Johnson & Johnson - experience in surgical equipment, with Verily - in robotics, which is in Alphabet. However, today robotic surgery is no longer news, robots perform operations under the control of people. The most famous case is da Vinci robot, with the help of which operations were carried out even in Ukraine.

Finally, in 2016, it became known about the jointa project by Verily and British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, Galvani Bioelectronic. The project is to receive $ 715 million in investment from Alphabet and Coldrex over seven years to develop bioelectronic implants, which will help fight chronic diseases. These will be tiny devices that, with the help of electrical impulses, will change nerve impulses and thereby affect human health. The first samples will appear in 2023.

State Health Survey of Americans

In 2017, Verily together with the universityStanford has launched a 4-year wearable electronics health research program. It is attended by 10,000 people. With the help of the study, the company plans to study how the data of genetic tests, wearable electronics and other sources can be combined to improve human health.

The Verily project overlaps with a number of others inin particular, with the study of the health status of millions of Americans, which is conducted by the US National Institute of Health (NIH). The company collects data from wearable devices of NIH program participants.

In the early stages, the company worked ona platform that combines recordings from the tracker, genetic information and the medical history of the project participants. The start of the project was widely covered in American media. The constant tracking of the lifestyle of people and the state of the body, according to the idea of ​​Verily, will help to understand how people get diseases, and what can be done about it. What is especially important - people from different socioeconomic strata, of different ages and races take part in the project.

Fighting with Death: Calico Project

In 2013, technical director in the fieldRay Kurzweil's Google Learning and Natural Language Processing Machine spoke at the Global Future 2045 World Congress in the United States. In his speech, he suggested that over the next 15 years, humanity will be able to increase life by a longer period than it was possible to do over the past century. This will help us reprogramming cells and 3D printing. And he did not stop at mere words.

In the same year, Google became one of the foundersCalico project, which deals with life extension issues. “Calico is a research company whose mission is to use advanced technology to improve our understanding of biology that controls life expectancy. We will use this knowledge to develop measures that will allow people to lead a longer and healthier life, ”the project website says.

Calico website has links to scientistscompanies in the field of genetic studies of longevity, preventing the effects of chronic stress on the body, combating various types of cancer, searching for a “toggle switch” that disables cell death, etc. Calico is open to partnerships, especially in research.

All medical data in one place: Deepmind Health

Deepmind company appeared in 2010, in 2014it was acquired by Google, but left independent. Deepmind was actively discussed in 2016, when the Alpha Go algorithm created within its walls was able to defeat a person in the game of the same name. But this is not the only project of the company where the best AI specialists from Oxford work.

In 2016, she launched a medicalHealth division. The unit’s tasks included creating data-safe tools for working with patients - a platform, cloud storage, a mobile application for clinics, where they could watch how patients comply with prescriptions. The fact that sooner or later the medical data will be digitized and go to the clouds was already clear then. Therefore, it is logical that one of the “hands” of Google - one of the leaders in the field of working with data and clouds - has reached a promising niche.

Deepmind also engaged inresearch projects in the field of cancer therapy, image analysis, prediction of complications, etc. The partner in the implementation of the projects was the British National Health System, as well as the UK clinics and British data.

Autumn 2019 Medical UnitDeepmind's AI companies went under the wing of Alphabet. The purchase cost $ 500 million, integration took 10 months. Under the terms of the deal, collaboration with British doctors will continue under the wing of Google Health. Now you can read about all these projects on the Google Health website.

Personal data in exchange for free medicine

In November of this year, it became known that Googlesecretly receives American personal medical information from Ascension, one of the largest healthcare organizations in the world. It includes about 150 hospitals and medical organizations in the United States.

According to Forbes, a project calledNightingale started no earlier than this February. It is about testing a service to analyze patient medical data. It also allows doctors to learn more about the health of their patients, previous medical interventions, medications taken, etc. Experts believe that cloud services for storing medical data is a tasty morsel of the market for companies at the level of Google, Microsoft, etc. Therefore, one way or another they will develop in this direction.

Fitbit: cherry on the cake

Fitbit in the portfolio of Google, at a glance,It looks the same suitcase without a handle, as previously became Motorola or HTC. Companies are stubbornly unlucky with the gadget line. Yes, and Fitbit is not a first-tier player, the company is not doing well with iron sales; competitors are eating it up from above and below the market. Does this mean that Google decided to try their luck and (at the same time drown) one of the world's largest manufacturers of smart watches? Most likely no.

In 2017, Fitbit's business went downhill. Samsung and Apple improved their already sensible smart watches, Xiaomi eats away the market with budget smart bracelets. Fitbit stagnated, as the technological capabilities of the new models did not grow much, but they cost a lot. But one small pivot changed the fate of the company. Fitbit switched to collaboration with insurance, medical and other organizations, and also focused on the development of services for zohozhniki, available by subscription. The new software strategy, together with successful models in terms of price and performance ratio, helped the company even out revenues.

Fitbit revenue dynamics

Fitbit Sales Dynamics

Google is probably not interested in this storyas much iron business to fight Apple in the smart watch market as the platform and data of millions of users who have been accumulating for over 10 years. This is far more than the 10,000 users that participated in the four-year study.

In the dry residue

Special project

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Bye FDA (FDA)the quality of US food and medicine, whose actions, in general, affect the rest of the world) is in no hurry to allow artificial intelligence to make diagnoses, and wearable electronics to act as a medical consultant. But this does not mean that this time will never come. When it arrives, Google will be among the first to know the maximum about the human body’s structure, thoroughly understand the effects of various aspects of lifestyle on health and duration, distinguish between diseases, be able to work with databases, store huge amounts of data in its clouds and connect doctors with patients, and besides, to develop all kinds of “smart” medical equipment. With small steps, the company is already methodically moving towards its goal.