The appetite for new med tech projects at the recently formed Google Life Sciences seems bottomless. Not only does it have at least a half-dozen ongoing med tech R&D initiatives, but it's also constantly in the process of securing patents on the next stage of projects that are on the heels of what it's already disclosed publicly.
|Example devices for needle-free blood draw--Courtesy of Google Life Sciences|
Earlier this week, a Google patent filing for a laser ablation system patent was released. Now its latest is a patent application disclosed on Dec. 3 for a needle-free blood draw device for use in any sort of diagnostic including blood glucose or for use in a handheld device.
Although the patent was originally filed in May 2014, it was just published now in line with U.S. Patent and Trademark policy to publish patent filings 18 months after an application is made.
The patent filing describes a method for needle-free blood draw that would rely upon a negative pressure barrel that would release microparticles with enough force to pierce the skin and elicit tiny blood droplets. The vacuum barrel would then draw in at least part of that blood.
Google envisioned that this tiny quantity of blood could be used in a wide variety of diagnostic tests. It could also be incorporated into a handheld device similar in size and shape to a pencil or conventional hypodermic needle-carrying barrel.
Or it could even go into a wearable, wrist-worn device that could draw blood as well as connect to the cloud for data analysis, storage and communication. That specific version seems to be of a wrist-worn blood glucose monitor based upon these micro blood samples that could operate automatically.
A Google spokesperson cautioned that not every patent comes to fruition, though. "We hold patents on a variety of ideas--some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don't. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents," she said.
Questions have arisen in recent months around tiny blood draw diagnostics player Theranos. It's drawn scrutiny from the FDA and concerns regarding the accuracy of its tests. It remains unclear the extent to which these micro blood samples can accurately represent the larger whole of what's present in the blood stream.
More advanced Google Life Sciences projects include a blood glucose sensing contact lens, for which it partnered with Novartis ($NVS) in July 2014. The partners have already stated that they expect these lenses to be in human clinical trials in 2016.
Other ongoing, disclosed Google Life Sciences projects include a nanotech-diagnostics function based on a swarm of nanobots to go through the body, a wrist-worn cardiac and activity monitor, as well as the Baseline Study which is trolling for novel biomarkers in body fluids and assessing their potential implications.
Google filed for this patent well before it made the August announcement that it would become parent company Alphabet ($GOOG) that houses companies including the search engine-oriented Google and med tech-based Google Life Sciences. Alphabet has said previously that it will divulge further details on these individual businesses when it reports fourth quarter earnings in late January.
- here is the patent filing