Artificial intelligence tops Google VC's list of high-potential life sci techs

Bill Maris

Google Ventures President Bill Maris has put artificial intelligence at the top of a list of 8 technologies he sees as having the potential to revolutionize life sciences. The technologies are part of what Maris calls life science's "transistor moment," a trigger that will enable healthcare to advance at a rate comparable to the rapid rise of computing in recent decades.

Maris and the broader Google ($GOOG) operation have backed up their belief in the idea with hard cash, financing a string of life sciences startups and in-house programs. The Google Ventures President outlined the thinking behind these investments--and hinted at where Google will next aim its funding funnel--in a post on Medium, a blog platform created by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone. Maris' belief in the potential for technology to apply the afterburners to life science is underpinned by eight trends, from artificial intelligence to stem cells.

Biotech IT tools are supporting--and in some cases enabling--the trends, but their role is clearest in artificial intelligence. "Every time you talk to Siri, or use Google Maps, you are using a form of artificial intelligence. The same technology could be used in many healthcare applications, such as analyzing cancer patient data and recommending more effective treatments," Maris wrote in the blog post. Machine learning is central to how Google is trying to evolve its business, affecting everything from its photo apps and Android operating system to its musings on drug discovery.

Maris sees the parallel rises of advanced artificial intelligence and large health data sets as creating many, as yet barely glimpsed, possibilities to advance life sciences. The other 7 trends listed by Maris are improvements to our understanding of the brain, antibiotics, cancer, gene editing, the microbiome, organ regeneration and stem cells.

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