Google Life Sciences Making Strides to Get Under Our Skin (for Good Reasons)


Six months ago, I wrote a blog about how Google and Apple were pushing into the healthcare industry with their innovative apps – Google’s and Alcon Labs’ “smart” contact lens and Apple’s foray into new health apps that track everything from blood pressure and weight to hydration and exercise.

Now, Google has announced its latest foray into the healthcare market. The company is no longer just making your searches for cute kitten videos faster or building search algorithms that change how businesses and industries market themselves.

Now Google has focused on one of the deadliest scourges known to mankind – cancer.

In recent weeks, Google unveiled its plans to create two innovative tools geared at battling cancer.

The first involves Google researchers creating a wristband that can detect cancer cells when they first appear in circulating blood. The second, which caught my attention, is that the researchers are developing humanlike artificial arms, complete with synthetic skin, to test the device’s effectiveness.

The idea is amazing that Google has moved beyond its niche to have scientists developing a tool – like the Fitibit I am wearing right now –  that could one day work in tandem with nanoparticles to search out cancer cells and report on them.

It has only been four years since my 16-year-old son Nathan died from complications caused by acute myeloid leukemia. At that time, I was hoping that researchers, scientists and pharmaceutical companies might make a difference with cancer by the end of this century. Now, I see the innovations being brought on by Google and the work of scientists and I think it might be decades and not centuries.

Dr. Andrew Conrad, head of Google Life Sciences, is giving many of us hope that it won’t just rest with pharma companies and academic institutions to make a difference. Instead, companies like Google and Apple and others seem willing to step out and reinvent themselves in an effort to help create better science and healthcare.

As Conrad stated in his interview with The Atlantic, we won’t be seeing the technology in 2015, but it could be “years, not decades.”

It is no secret that the pharma and medical device industries have never been known for rapid change. That is not the case with Google and Apple, two companies synonymous with innovation. It will be interesting to see what other companies will follow the lead of these industry giants.

While I applaud the innovation going on with those not typically involved in disease treatment, I do not want to diminish the work taking place in the pharma and medical device industries. Without a doubt, scientists and researchers are seeking out cures and working to improve the patient experience.

In the past year, Best Practices has spent more time talking to companies about topics such as patient centricity and patient support than ever before.

During our Medical Affairs Roundtables, executives stressed the need for innovation and the importance of discussing the science of disease treatment and encouraging more investigator initiated trials.

Eventually, the convergence between traditional healthcare companies and the atypical participants that are moving into patients’ lives will be the norm. When that day comes, we might be discussing how Google or some other company helped wipe out cancer. Now, I can realistically hope that day will come during my lifetime.

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