Sanofi buys into Google's biotech future, pairing up in diabetes

Google life sciences CEO Andy Conrad

Sanofi ($SNY) is lending its weight to Google's ($GOOG) ambitions in life sciences, joining the tech giant's recently unleashed healthcare division in hopes of developing new technologies to help manage diabetes.

Under the agreement, Sanofi will bring its expertise in crafting treatments for the disease, including the world's top-selling insulin, to Google's nascent life sciences operation, an as-yet-unnamed grouping of scientists and engineers that has identified diabetes as its first focus. Google and Sanofi aren't getting into much detail about their mission, saying only that they plan to work on new approaches to diabetes that marry therapy and technology, exploring novel technologies to improve disease monitoring and patient adherence.

For Google, the Sanofi deal follows a diabetes-minded pairing with Novartis ($NVS), announced last year, through which the life sciences team is toiling away on a contact lens that could double as a glucose monitor. The life sciences division recently graduated from Google X, the company's secretive R&D division, and is on its way to becoming a standalone company under the umbrella of Alphabet, Google's new General Electric ($GE)-like conglomerate. Diabetes is Google life sciences' first big target, the company said, standing alongside the group's ongoing work on wearable cardiac monitors, tools for robot-assisted surgery and nanotechnology.

"With new technologies emerging to provide a more continuous and real-time view of a patient's health, we can see the promise for more proactive and effective ways to control diabetes," Google life sciences CEO Andy Conrad said in a statement. "Together with Sanofi, we believe diabetes management can be simpler and more convenient, which may help patients achieve an improved quality of life."

As for Sanofi, the partnership follows last year's move to combine resources with medical device giant Medtronic ($MDT) in what the pair are calling an open-innovation model. That deal, unveiled at 2014's American Diabetes Association meeting, is split between the development of drug-device combinations and the broad goal of creating new a care-management service that could guide patients' treatment path from oral therapies to insulin initiation, smoothing out a common process and boosting adherence, the companies said.

Google's Alphabet evolution, disclosed earlier this month, calls for each of the sprawling company's separate divisions to become a semi-independent entity. That includes Google's nascent foray into healthcare, headlined by life sciences and Calico, a secretive drug development company launched in 2013 with the broad mission of prolonging human life. Art Levinson, the former Genentech CEO, sits at the helm of Calico and has recruited a slew of big-name veterans from pharma and academia to fill out the company's ranks.

- read Sanofi's statement (PDF)
- here's Google's release

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