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