Google Life Sciences CMO opens up about research plans

Jessica Mega

Back in May, Alphabet's ($GOOG) Google Life Sciences brought on then-Harvard cardiologist Jessica Mega to lead its Baseline study, a research effort aimed at gathering molecular and genetic data to jump-start medical research and offer a more comprehensive look at human health. Now Mega is opening up about the study, revealing more about the company's plans to harness data to address and potentially prevent disease.

In an interview with STAT, Mega, Google Life Sciences' CMO, said that "technology is moving quickly into health care" and that Google Life Sciences is taking this transition "really seriously." The company earlier this year said it would collect genetic and molecular data from 175 people as part of its first small pilot phase, and that it would partner with Duke and Stanford medical schools for a larger study with thousands of participants.

Mega's experience as a researcher will come in handy for the company as it forges ahead with its Baseline project. Google Life Sciences is "in a very active pilot phase to try to get all the pieces to come together," combining molecular data, clinical data, imaging data and patient engagement, Mega said. Once the company integrates the information, it will start looking for patterns and platforms that can synthesize the data--something Alphabet and Google Life Sciences "will be particularly good at," Mega said.

"We'll try to understand the fundamental building blocks--the systems biology for what it means to be free of overt disease, what we call 'healthy.' Then we'll follow people to try to capture the early signs of that transition, with the goal of trying to prevent disease as we go forward," she said.

Patient monitoring technology is often presented as cost-saving, but Google Life Sciences' more precise data-intensive method could drive up costs, STAT points out. But Mega defended the company's approach, saying that finding the right treatment or right medications and avoiding side effects will result in less hospital time for patients and unnecessary tests.

"(W)e're working to come up with things that provide actionable information," Mega said. "People ask if this will be something that only a handful of people can use. The hope is that they will be scalable. We're a bit early in that mission but it's something we take seriously."

- read the STAT story

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