Verily aims to build 'Google of human systems biology' in latest med tech push

Verily's Andrew Conrad

Verily is charting a rapid-fire pace in med tech, inking deals this past year and working with researchers to expand its reach in the industry. Next up on the company's agenda? Building a Google-like search engine for medical research.

Verily CEO Andrew Conrad will work with a group of academic hospitals, doctors, universities and patient advocates to build the "Google of human systems biology," Conrad said at the recent Future of Genomic Medicine conference in San Diego, as quoted by Fast Company. The way Conrad sees it, "most of the information that scientists use isn't easily available" and it "sits around in difficult-to-crack domains."

The company would try to reverse this trend by building a library that uses machine-learning technology to facilitate research. The system "doesn't work as wonderfully as a human" but "it can answer questions," Conrad said.

This isn't the first time a tech company has explored different ways to index medical information. Big names such as IBM Watson ($IBM) are already hard at work on artificial intelligence technologies that could help researchers easily access information, Fast Company points out.

But Verily's project would be more focused on humans, according to the Fast Company story. The company will work with patients, advocates, family members and doctors to figure out the best way to aggregate data that doesn't come from scientific journals. An algorithm could decode doctors' notes for example, Conrad said, making it easier for other physicians to understand each other's observations.

Verily will also look at how to incorporate data from devices such as smartphones into its database. Conrad sees big potential in this application, citing an example of a smartphone that could pick up on a person's depression.

A health search engine would add to Verily's growing list of projects. The company is developing "smart" contact lenses with Swiss drugmaker Novartis ($NVS) and is working with Dexcom ($DXCM) to launch a mini glucose monitor.

Last month, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) selected Verily to launch President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative. The company will work with Nashville, TN-based Vanderbilt University to roll out the pilot program, which aims to collect personal data from volunteers to spur discoveries in human health.

- read the Fast Company story