Verily narrows its focus, cutting device work and laying off 15% of staff

Verily will lay off about 15% of its staff as part of a restructuring that will see Google’s life-science-focused sister company slim down its portfolio of disparate health projects and largely exit the development of medical devices.

In an email to employees that was also published by the company as a blog post, CEO Stephen Gillett said Verily would no longer pursue multiple lines of business and will instead operate as “one centralized product organization” aimed at enabling precision healthcare.

“We are designing complexity out of Verily,” Gillett wrote. “Going forward, we are going to do fewer things and leverage our strengths and capabilities in the process.” 

Since being launched out of Google’s company incubator X in 2015, Verily’s varying list of enterprises has grown and shrank over the years—with some bought, some sold and others abandoned.

To wit: the development of diabetes equipment with Sanofi, as well as its Onduo virtual clinic; a surgical robotics partnership since handed over to Johnson & Johnson; a smartwatch designed for clinical trials that’s seen both successes and setbacks at the FDA; a smart contact lens for tracking blood sugar, mothballed in 2018; the development of continuous glucose monitors with Dexcom; and a bioelectronics venture with GSK, among others.

Some of its higher-profile endeavors have included Project Baseline to digitally connect participants with clinical trials. And, during the early throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, Verily administered community-scale testing efforts nationwide.

It’s work like Project Baseline, with elements focused on supporting personalized care and its connections to clinical research, that will see more attention going forward, according to Gillett. That also includes Verily offerings such as Granular, a health insurance company aimed at self-funded employers, and OneFifteen, a high-tech approach to treating opioid addiction.

“We will center our strategy on closing the gap between research and care, and becoming the data and evidence backbone for precision health, with a focus on applying AI and data science to accelerate learning and improve outcomes,” Gillett wrote. 

That means turning away from early-stage work on remote patient monitoring programs for heart failure and the development of microneedles for drug delivery, he said. The company will also be discontinuing the Verily Value Suite for healthcare delivery analytics, and the president of Verily’s devices business, Jordi Parramon, will be leaving the company later this year.

The rest of Verily’s leadership will be consolidated into a new team with a reformed C-suite, including Amy Abernethy, M.D., P.D., Scott Burke, Lisa Greenbaum and others. Formerly head of Verily’s clinical research business, the ex-FDA official Abernethy will grow her role to become president of product development and chief medical officer. 

Burke, meanwhile, will be expanding his responsibilities as chief technology officer to include oversight of hardware engineering and devices teams. And Chief Revenue Officer Greenbaum will take on a new chief commercial officer post. Gillett said Verily would continue its searches for a new chief financial officer and chief scientific officer.