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.

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  1. Perhaps Verily is just a PR job to divert attention from the multitude of ways Google is making billions from the sick care industry. Most people have no idea what these are but just look at how they sell expensive adverts for “free drug abuse helplines”. They’ve created a industry of referral agents that masquerade as ‘free helplines’ that sell the unsuspecting on exorbitantly priced mental health services.

    Also Verily presenting future scenarios about contact lenses on eyeballs for diabetics is a clever way to pretend you’re solving world problems (finger pricking for diabetics) and that’s a great way to divert attention for the less ethical things the parent company is doing eg. taking millions of Patients hospital records without consent etc.

    • Donna Cusano

      Verily seems to be very good at digging a lot of dry, unprofitable holes in a lot of different directions. Mr. Conrad’s been scored already by observers as exactly the sort who’s skilled at this. It’s hard to dismiss this as a corporate indulgence. David, thanks for illuminating this potential Google ‘smoke screen’. Or as we say in NYC, ‘Three Card Monte’ where the hands are moving so fast you can’t spot what is really going on!

  2. Not sure it is potential. They paid a few NHS execs to visit Silicon Valley GooglePlex and built a mobile app for a small group of Patients on dialysis and got data that genuinely ha cost £Billion (of taxpayer resources) for the NHS to collect.