Google wearables to add to planned bioinformatics database

Google and Novartis are teaming up to develop Google's "smart lens" technology for glucose monitoring and presbyopia.--Courtesy of Google

Google ($GOOG) isn't just searching the Internet. The company will soon search the insides of people's bodies for new biomarkers by collecting their urine, blood, saliva and tears as part of its Baseline Study initiative.

The 175 study participants will wear Google's experimental wearable devices, including its smart contact lens for monitoring glucose levels, which is being developed with Big Pharma company Novartis ($NVS), The Wall Street Journal reports. The project will utilize the company's famed computing power to crunch the data of biological, molecular and genetic information, including patients' heart rates under stress. A larger study of thousands of people run in collaboration with Duke and Stanford Universities will follow. 

Some may find this extension of Google's already long reach creepy. But according to the article, Google will not share the anonymized information with insurance companies, and Stanford and Duke medical schools will monitor and control the use of the information. It will be made available to third-party researchers.

The initiative reflects the decreased price of sequencing genes. It now costs about $1,000 to sequence the human genome, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Privacy advocates aren't the only ones who will be watching this initiative closely. Established players will be on the lookout because the Internet giant clearly has its designs on the med tech arena, in case that wasn't clear from the smart contact lens initiative and hints that it is developing wearable devices.

But Google co-founder Sergey Brin indicated he is concerned about healthcare regulations, saying during this month's Khosla Ventures CEO Summit that the industry is "just a painful business to be in" because "the regulatory burden in the U.S. is so high that I think it would dissuade a lot of entrepreneurs." 

- read the article in The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)
- here is The Cato Institute on Brin's comments

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