Apple healthcare researcher jumps to Gates Foundation to lead new digital health work: CNBC

digital health
One of Trister’s recent projects at Apple, in cooperation with Eli Lilly and Evidation, explored how changes in smartphone habits could translate into digital biomarkers and warning signs for Alzheimer’s disease. (Rostislav_Sedlacek)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has brought on one of Apple’s healthcare project leaders to serve in a new role helping lead its global digital health efforts, according to a report from CNBC.

Andrew Trister, who has worked on special projects at Apple since 2016, previously held positions at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Oregon Health & Science University. At the Gates Foundation, his title will be deputy director of digital health innovation.

In an interview with CNBC, Trister said he will work with U.S. companies hoping to bring their health technology to the developing world, where smartphone use is growing. Additionally, he will help guide investments in local companies in low-income countries and areas. This could include telehealth applications as well as portable diagnostics, according to the report.

“We’re looking to help both consumers and community health workers globally, as we see smartphones playing an increasingly important role,” he told CNBC.

RELATED: Apple, Eli Lilly and Evidation present first results from digital Alzheimer’s study

One of Trister’s recent projects at Apple also focused on smartphone use. In cooperation with Eli Lilly and Evidation Health, the three companies published a study last week exploring how changes in device habits could translate into digital biomarkers and warning signs for Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, with Trister as a co-author, examined a combination of data from difference real-world sources including activity tracking, app usage and simple assessment tests.

RELATED: Gates, Bezos-backed Alzheimer's accelerator issues first diagnostic development awards

Bill Gates himself has taken a personal interest in funding Alzheimer’s research, with a special focus on developing easily accessible diagnostics. Last year, he and other high-profile investors committed tens of millions for a “venture philanthropy” accelerator; the project would later be joined by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Through the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation, the diagnostics accelerator recently issued its first grants, aimed at developing blood tests and retinal scans to spot the early signs of the disease. It also plans to issue awards to digital tests and biomarkers before the end of the year. According to CNBC, Trister did not confirm whether he will continue his work in smartphone-based monitoring while at the Gates Foundation.