Alphabet unit launches four-year study to track health data

Verily, Alphabet Inc’s life sciences business, is launching a four-year study with about 10,000 participants in the US to understand how people transition from being healthy to becoming sick, and to identify additional risk factors for diseases. Verily is partnering with Duke University and Stanford Medicine to enroll participants from varying backgrounds at sites in California and North Carolina within the next few months.

The study is the first initiative of Project Baseline, a broader effort to develop a reference, or a “baseline”, for what “health” refers to; the study will collect data, as well as biological samples such as blood and saliva. The sites will gather data from participants through repeat clinical visits, a wristwatch that monitors heart rate and activity levels, as well as participation in surveys and polls.

“The Project Baseline study has the opportunity to significantly influence our current body of knowledge by better understanding the indicators of wellness,” Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association, told Reuters. “The outcome of this study could inspire a new generation of tools that are geared towards disease prevention versus just diagnosis and treatment.”

Beyond this initial study, the project will also test and develop new tools and technologies to access and organise health information. In September, pharmaceutical company Sanofi SA and Verily unveiled a $500m investment in a joint venture which combined devices with services to improve diabetes care, an example of growing ties between the pharmaceutical and technology sectors. Verily also has several other medical projects in the works, including the development of a smart contact lens in partnership with Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG that has an embedded glucose sensor to help monitor diabetes.

Last December, Glasgow-based clinical and translational informatics company Aridhia opened a new office at the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, the largest acute hospital in Western Europe. Located in the University of Glasgow’s Clinical Innovation Zone in the hospital’s Teaching and Learning Centre, alongside Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre (SMS-IC), Aridhia’s new office is home to an expanding team with a focus on data and analytics innovation in biomedical research and precision medicine.

The hospital is also the home of Scotland’s only precision medicine centre of excellence, an initiative from the UK Government’s Precision Medicine Catapult Programme, which aims to act as a hub for national and regional precision medicine activities within the UK-wide network. Since 2014, Aridhia has worked closely with the SMS-IC, which uses AnalytiXagility as its informatics platform to collect, manage and analyse the vast volumes and diversity of data needed to realise the potential of stratified medicine.

The move placed Aridhia at the heart of precision medicine activity in Scotland and enabling closer collaborative working between the company, University and SMS-IC, with a focus on the development of data-driven, operational clinical services that will benefit patients within Scotland and further afield.

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