Alphabet's Verily kicks off long range study to track human health

The 10,000-person study aims to explore why people who are generally healthy become sick.
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor

Verily, Alphabet's life biotech division formerly known as Google life sciences, is embarking on a 10,000-person study that will explore why people who are generally healthy become sick.

The study is part of a larger effort called Project Baseline, which Google first announced in 2014. The project aims to establish a reference for human health and gain insight into the biological changes associated with the shift from health to illness.

The study, which could be more than a decade-long effort, is in partnership with Stanford University and Duke University. Participants will share data for approximately four years from a range of sources, including wearable devices, physical exams, electronic health records, and surveys and diaries about their lifestyle.

"There are many signals coming from the human body that have been previously inaccessible," said Verily's Jessica Mega. "With advanced sensors, tools, and data analytics, we have the opportunity to access and organize these signals -- creating a comprehensive map of health that can better predict and prevent disease."

Verily came under scrutiny last year following a report published by health and science site Stat claiming that the company's signature products were plagued by "serious, if not fatal, scientific shortcomings." The scathing report lead to comparisons between Verily and Theranos, the beleaguered $9 billion blood diagnostics startup now under federal investigation for allegedly misleading investors.

But Alphabet's upper echelon, including executive chairman Eric Schmidt, continue to back Verily and its potential to produce medical breakthroughs. Verily still has several other medical projects in the pipeline, including glucose-detecting smart contact lenses that could help diabetes patients.

Just last week, Verily announced the Verily Study Watch, a wrist-worn health tracker made specifically for clinical and observational studies.

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