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.

Using sensors to speed scientific experimentation

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/lab-experiment-equipment.jpg” thumb_width=”200″ /]A Boston-based startup with some impressive backing, Elemental Machines, is seeking to solve the variability problems that hinder scientific experimentation, particularly in drug development. Misfit and AgaMetrix founders Sonny Vu and Sridhar Iyengar join co-founders Elicia Wong and Gary Tsai in raising $2.5 million in seed funding, with investors including Founders Fund, backer of SpaceX and Lyft. The company’s purpose is to develop sensors (called “elements”) sending data interpreted by cloud-based software that will help scientists better detect and control for the most common variable factors that take place during experiments–temperature, humidity, vibration, light, instrumentation and protocols. The goal is to accelerate the experiment and research process so that drugs, devices and products make it to market (eventually) faster and less expensively. BostInno, TechCrunch

The rich store of information in…human sweat

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/sweat-sensor-wristband450.jpg” thumb_width=”200″ /]’Don’t sweat it’ may in future be the wrong thing to say. University of California-Berkeley researchers have developed a prototype sensor array on a band that successfully captures readings of multiple sweat analytes and sends the information to a smartphone app for analysis, making it the first device capable of continuous, non-invasive monitoring of multiple biochemicals in perspiration. The five sensors measure metabolites glucose and lactate, the electrolytes sodium and potassium, and skin temperature, which serves to calibrate the other readings in real time. The device (left), which can be in a wristband or headband form, also contains a flexible printed circuit board that amplifies the sensor signals and sends them to the smartphone app. The Berkeley researchers look forward to commercializing the technology to capture more analyte readings, for athletic performance, medical and fitness tracking usage–and in the longer-term, population-level studies for medical applications. We wonder how long it will be before these show up in a new model Misfit, Jawbone or Fitbit. Berkeley News   Hat tip to former TTA Ireland Editor Toni Bunting

Reaching the lemonade point with Jawbone

This editor’s recent blogs on Jawbone’s UPs do not make pleasant reading so now I’ve reached my “lemonade point” – ie I am on my 7UP (or should that be seventh UP?) – it seemed only fair to advise readers that I have had my second UP3 for over a month and it still works! As I took my previous one in the shower – as is recommended – and it packed up very quickly, for this one I’m avoiding all water contact. Perhaps that’s the secret?

I was reminded of this by this recent piece in ZD-net grumbling about tracker data loss – Jawbone, alongside Misfit, were the two quoted. That is an experience I have yet to have, although at present if anything I have the reverse with my sleep times being doubled resulting in 14+ hour daily sleeps.

Apart from this relatively minor glitch (compared to previous rather more terminal ones), I am almost at the point of being impressed. The new software automatically detects sleep, so no need to remember to tell it when you are going to bed, and the heart rate monitor produces some very interesting results. Once you work out how to put it on so it doesn’t keep falling off, it’s much less obtrusive that the original UP open bracelet, too. If it keeps going like this for another eleven months, I fear I might even start recommending it!

67% of 50+ users found activity trackers beneficial: AARP study

The just-published AARP study of 50+ consumers and design of sleep and activity trackers has found that a near-or majority surveyed found activity and sleep trackers useful in maintaining health. 71 percent found they increased awareness of habits; 67 percent found them useful and beneficial. Four user personas emerged: sticklers, achievers, enthusiasts and the ‘why not’-ers. Yet these mostly enthusiastic users experienced difficulties. During the six-week trial, many discontinued use of the trackers due to data inaccuracy, finding and using instructions, perceived device malfunctions, difficulty in syncing, difficulty in putting on the device and comfort in wearing. The seven trackers used by the 92 participants were from Misfit, Spire, Jawbone, Lumo and Withings. Conducted by Georgia Tech Research Institute’s HomeLab with AARP’s Project Catalyst: The Power of We initiative which encourages good product and service design for the 50+ demographic. Coming up: med management tools. iHealthBeat. AARP release. AARP’s Building a Better Tracker research paper

Wearable alert: DARPA’s tinier-than-a-penny nav device

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/timu.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Misfit, UnderArmour, Fraunhofer Institute, Samsung, Apple, GuideMeHome and even Avery Dennison, listen up: the US Department of Defense via DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a/k/a the Internet’s real dad) researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a timing and inertial measurement unit (TIMU) that monitors motion, acceleration, time and positioning–without GPS. This navigation chip packs internal clocks, gyroscopes and accelerometers into 10 cubic millimeters fitting quite comfortably in the center of a US penny. Defense usage is backup for military devices in case of malfunctioning/unavailable GPS. In the civilian market, the easy one is wearables particularly for safety (e.g. gait detection, falling)–but the other is backup to in-car and cell phone systems dependent on GPS which, if knocked out, can present inconvenience to hazard. Extreme Miniaturization…. (DARPA.mil)  PopSci’s once-over-lightly.