Google’s Verily rolls along. Bumpily? (updated)

Several articles of late have reported on the Google Alphabet life sciences company Verily. By fall last year, they had developed partnerships with Novartis-Alcon on development of a smart contact lens (for measuring glucose), plus Dexcom, Abbvie and Biogen. STAT, a health/medicine news website owned by Boston Globe Media which is still in beta, has a well-researched article that details, seemingly with a lot of inside scoop, its current turmoil. 12 top engineering and science executives have taken a powder. Some of the execs date back to the Google X days; most have fled back to Mother Google, others to Amazon or to life sciences competitors. STAT: “No similar brain drain has occurred at Calico, another ambitious Google spinoff, which is focused on increasing the human lifespan.” The reasons are the apparently abrasive CEO Andrew Conrad, depicted as ambitious, fickle and moody–and the constant shifting of support from approved projects to short-term initiatives ‘that show little promise’. Google’s bold bid to transform medicine hits turbulence.

Update: STAT published today information on a possible conflict of interest in Verily awarding a short-term research contract to a luxury health clinic, California Health & Longevity Institute, where Dr Conrad holds a majority ownership. According to the publication, it has no documented experience with this kind of work. The clinic will gather, in a 200-person ‘feasibility study’ for the larger Baseline study, genetic, molecular, clinical, and other data. According to Dr Conrad, it was done “Because I think it’s cool. Because it’s super efficient to have everything in one spot.” What may not be cool to the participants is that Baseline is already planning to sell the data to pharmaceutical companies–with patient consent, of course, in a document not yet public. Google’s biotech venture hit by ethical concerns

Unicorns to Series A–health tech funding gained in (perhaps) the nick of time

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/1107_unicorn_head_mask_inuse.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Money, money everywhere–unicorns get the headlines, but the companies are still (largely) small

Up until early August, this Editor would have assumed that our Readers would look at this funding roundup as a bracing windup to a largely positive eight months and a veritable Corvette Summer for healthcare technology funding. We may have to give back the keys a little sooner than we imagined. Will the dropping market affect digital health as 2008-9 did–‘out of gas’ for years? Or will it barely affect our motoring onward? Despite the Dow Jones average hitting an 18 month low today, we hope it’s closer to the latter than the former. though the new and big entrant to digital health investing is the country most affected, China.

Our roundup of the August Action includes ZocDoc, Fitbit, Alphabet, PillPack, Owlet and more, along with a few comments:

**ZocDoc, a NYC-based online medical care appointment service that matches patients with doctors by location and schedule, had the most sensational round with last week’s Series D funding of $130 million, giving it a valuation of $1.8 bn. It took over a year after the filing (June 2014) and was led by two foreign funds (London-based Atomico and Edinburgh-based Baillie Gifford) with additional funding from Founders Fund, which previously participated in raises of $95 million.

Though it claims 60 percent coverage in the US  and ‘millions of users’ (numbers which have been quoted for some years), ZocDoc won’t disclose profitability nor volume–metrics that would be part of any IPO.

Direction? Points given for deciphering this windy statement (quoted from Mobihealthnews): (more…)

Eye feels the pain of Google’s Brin and Page

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/gimlet-eye.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /] Oh, the discomfort that Sergey and Larry must be feeling being grilled interviewed by “billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla” (grudgingly respected in TTA 30 May) at one of his eponymous Summits. Here they are with Google Glass in all sorts of adaptations from Parkinson’s to gait improvement to surgery [see multiple TTA articles here], a ‘moonshot on aging and longevity’ dubbed Calico [TTA 19 Sept 13] and even a contact lens to measure blood glucose in tears [TTA 17 Jan]. All good stuff with Big Change potential. Instead they whinge on about how the health field is so regulated, and all the cool stuff you could do with the data but for that privacy thingy (those darn EU, UK regulations and in US, HIPAA). Page to Khosla: “I do worry that we regulate ourselves out of some really great possibilities that are certainly on the data-mining end.” Brin to Khosla: “Generally, health is just so heavily regulated. It’s just a painful business to be in. It’s just not necessarily how I want to spend my time.” Gee. Whiz. What is apparent here is a lack of personal respect for us ‘little folks’ privacy and our everyday, humdrum lives.

Advice straight from The Gimlet Eye: My dear boys, you’ll just have to get people’s data with that old-fashioned thing, permission. (And you’d be surprised that many would be happy to give it to you.) Or if it’s all too painful, Sergey can play with his superyacht, latest girlfriend and follow his estranged wife Anne Wojcicki’s 23andme‘s ongoing dealings with the FDA. At least she’s in the arena. Google leaders think health is ‘a painful business to be in’ (SFGate) Mobihealthnews covers their true confessions, with an interesting veer off in the final third of the article to Mr Khosla’s view of Ginger.io’s surprising pilot with Kaiser and then to WellDoc’s Bluestar diabetes therapy app–the only one that is 510(k)Class II and registered as a pharmaceutical product [TTA 10 Jan].  Also interesting re the Googlers’ mindset is a SFGate blog piece on Larry Page’s attitudes towards leisure and work in a Keynes-redux ‘vision of the future‘. < work + > people may= >leisure, but certainly<<<$£€¥ for even the well-educated and managerial!

More color(s) on Calico

Fortune, rolling off sister TIME‘s announcement of ‘Can Google Solve Death?’ [TTA 19 Sep], provides more background on how Calico, Google‘s new company which will focus on aging and associated diseases, came to be. It is the brainchild of Google Ventures’ managing partner Bill Maris who was once in biotech, and saw that this area was missing the root cause of much disease–that we all keep on getting older and experience cellular failure. “Now that the entire genome had been coded, Maris wondered if it was possible to actually study the genetic causes of aging and then create drugs to address them (a question that was heavily influenced by talks with futurist and Googler Ray Kurzweil).” He initially attracted major non-Googly investors, (more…)

Google ‘moonshots’ aging (and death) with Calico

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/360_cover_0930.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Calico is the new Google-ism for a new and apparently separate company which will focus on health and wellbeing, concentrating on aging and associated diseases. Announced yesterday, it will be headed by Arthur D. Levinson, Chairman of both Genentech and Apple, who plans to remain in both day jobs. It’s way outside of Google’s main business model, but in sync with the (failed) Google Health PHR, the potential of Glass in medicine and their relationship with Cornell NYC Tech, which until 2017 is in substantial space in Google’s sprawling downtown Manhattan building; one of the latter’s tech entrepreneurship hubs is ‘healthier life’. Google is also willing to spend floods of money on this without any ROI in the foreseeable future–even the driverless car has a far closer horizon to reality. Other than the release, pretty much copied on Gizmag, Google is Mum. TIME’s cover story next week is only partly available without subscription but the cover (left above) is priceless. Along with it is an interesting bit of speculation on Mr. Levinson’s potential conflicts of interests in this third for him venture which are of perennial interest to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).