Google's life sciences team's first major area of focus: diabetes

August 31, 2015

People living with diabetes have to keep their blood sugar levels in a normal range using a combination of diet, exercise, and medication. Yet even today, this involves a surprising amount of guesswork. They try to write down food intake, log activity levels, measure blood sugar, and calculate insulin doses -- aided by a largely unintegrated selection of devices, apps, and pieces of paper.  And that's if people can even manage to fit the associated pain and hassle into their daily life. As a result, less than a third of patients with type 1 diabetes are meeting their target blood sugar levels and nearly half of all patients with  diabetes are missing their target levels. This raises their risk of serious short-term and long-term complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and nerve damage.

As a technology company, we can see how new sensors, wearable devices, and analytical tools could someday help people and their doctors get much more useful information more easily about how they're doing in a given day or over time -- and take action. In the labs at Google[x], we've developed sensors and digital tools that we think could accelerate this progress, including our smart contact lens project with Alcon, our cardiac and activity sensor, and continuous glucose monitor partnership with Dexcom. And that's why diabetes is the first disease we're focusing on as we become an independent company**.

Today, we're announcing a new partnership with Sanofi to move technology out of the lab more quickly and work on better ways for patients and physicians to collect, analyze, and understand all the multiple sources of information that impact diabetes management. This collaboration will bring together life sciences companies, medical device companies, academic researchers, and patient advocacy groups, who can help evaluate and enable new kinds of interventions that help patients and physicians manage diabetes more proactively. For example, new technologies could make it simple for a physician to understand when a patient's blood sugar is tracking high for days in a row, or could offer new ways for a patient to get real-time information and specific guidance about diet or insulin dosage.

John L. Brooks, III, President and CEO of Joslin Diabetes Center, which is a partner to the collaboration commented: "We are experiencing a worldwide pandemic of diabetes, and it's very encouraging to see healthcare and technology innovators step up to the challenge of providing cutting edge tools and care advancing technologies to help people with diabetes manage their disease, 24/7. Technology, sensors, analytics, and digital solutions will disrupt how  blood sugars are managed, which will deliver improved quality of life, lowering the risk of complications and reducing the costs and barriers associated with diabetes care. Ultimately, I truly hope we're able to turn the Joslin Diabetes Center into a museum."

If successful, the hope is that we will be able to make it easier for patients to keep their diabetes under control, which would reduce the risk of complications from the disease and the costs of care. At a time when the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is declaring that the world is "losing the battle" against diabetes, we think this is all worth a shot.


About the life sciences team at Google

The life sciences team at Google is focused on helping to move health care from reactive to proactive.  Combining expertise from the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, medicine, electrical engineering, computer science, we're developing new technology tools for physicians that can integrate easily into daily life and help transform the detection, prevention, and management of disease. Current projects in development include a smart contact lens with miniaturized glucose sensor; a collaboration to develop new kinds of continuous glucose monitors, a nanodiagnostics platform to help with early detection of disease; cardiac and activity sensor, and Liftware utensils for people with tremor.**

**(Two weeks ago, our life sciences team graduated from Google[x] and is now in the process of becoming a standalone Alphabet company; we don't have a name yet, but stay tuned.  We'll have more details on our plans to tackle other diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative conditions, in the coming months.)