Verily, Google’s life sciences arm, gathers in another billion to go…where? (updated for Study Watch FDA clearance)

Biotech/device company Verily added to its 2016 $800 million stake from Singapore’s Temasek a fresh $1 bn from Silver Lake Partners. with reported participation from Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan. Verily is majority-owned by Google parent Alphabet, which has added a new member to the Verily board, CFO Ruth Porat, and Egon Durbat from Silver Lake.

CEO Andrew Conrad, who is still there despite a brace of bad press two years ago [TTA 6 Apr 16], stated that “We are taking external funding to increase flexibility and optionality as we expand on our core strategic focus areas. Adding a well-rounded group of seasoned investors, led by Silver Lake, will further prepare us to execute as healthcare continues the shift towards evidence generation and value-based reimbursement models.”

One is tempted to say, ‘whatever that means’. They have had multiple ventures from contact lenses with Novartis’ subsidiary Alcon (reportedly discontinued but dating back with Google to 2014), diabetes with Sanofi, to sleep apnea with ResMed. VentureBeat reports they are cash-profitable and even venturing into areas such as small exploding needles that can extract blood through a wearable device–not precisely for the needle-phobic. There seem to be multiple projects in multiple directions that are primarily research. Certainly their finding at $1.8 bn is an outlier even at 2018’s big scale–but with Alphabet/Google as a parent and A-list partners, the risk is minimal. Mobihealthnews, Crunchbase

FDA clearance of Verily’s Study Watch. Late last week, Verily announced that their Study Watch was given a 510(k) FDA clearance. It records, stores, transfers and displays single-channel ECG. To date, there are no plans to use it beyond a handful of research studies primarily on cardiac disease. Mobihealthnews. Meanwhile, Google, not Verily, paid Fossil $40 million for a still under development smartwatch technology to fit into Google’s Ware OS area. It’s not known whether it is health related, but their CEO admitted that it was based on tech from the Misfit acquisition–and Misfit was focused on health tech. After the sale closing, it is predicted that some Fossil R&D staff will move over to Google. Back in 2015, Fossil paid $260 million for Misfit and their fitness tech but generally has stayed in the conventional smartwatch area. The story broke in Wareable. Also Mobihealthnews.

2015: a few predictions (UK-biased)

As intimated in our review of last year’s predictions, we feel little need to change course significantly, however some are now done & dusted, whereas others have a way to go. The latter include a concern about doctors, especially those in hospitals, continuing to use high-risk uncertified apps where the chance of injury or death of a patient is high if there is an error in them. Uncertified dosage calculators are considered particularly concerning.

Of necessity this is an area where clinicians are unwilling to be quoted, and meetings impose Chatham House rules. Suffice to say therefore that the point has now been well taken, and the MHRA are well aware of general concerns. Our first prediction therefore is that:

One or more Royal College/College will advise or instruct its members only to use CE-certified or otherwise risk-assessed medical apps.

The challenge here of course is that a restriction to CE-certified apps-only would be a disaster as many, if not most, apps used by clinicians do not meet the definition of a Medical Device and so could not justifiably be CE-certified. And apps are now a major source of efficiencies in hospitals – (more…)