Alphabet’s Verily Inks Collaboration Deal with Big Pharma Companies and Health Systems

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Verily, the life science division of Google/Alphabet, announced a strategic collaboration deal with Novartis, Otsuka, Pfizer, Sanofi, and six major health systems. The deals are part of Verily’s Project Baseline. The goal of the deals with the pharmaceutical companies is to develop digitally innovative, patient-centered clinical research programs using Project Baseline’s platform. The Baseline Platform was developed to engage more patients and clinicians in research, speed up studies, and allow for the collection of higher quality data.

The health system deal, which is dubbed the Baseline Health System Consortium, is with Duke University Medical Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Mayo Clinic, Regional Health in South Dakota and University of Pittsburgh. The goal here is to identify and develop solutions to challenges in clinical research, making it more accessible and engaging for patients, clinicians, researchers and research sponsors.

Verily launched Project Baseline in 2017 with the Project Baseline Health Study. The plan was to develop the technology and tools needed to assist researchers in creating a comprehensive map of human health.

Verily notes that across the U.S., less than 10% of the population participates in clinical research. “In addition to low participation,” Verily states, “challenges in research include data fragmentation, inefficient operations and limited value for patients.”

Google has notoriously stated that its mission is, “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Verily is Alphabet/Google’s healthcare technology company. It appears to be focused on organizing the world’s health and medical information.

“Clinical trials haven’t changed much since the 1960s,” Rod MacKenzie, chief development officer at Pfizer, told CNBC. “We’ve been thinking about modernizing them for some time.”

Badhri Srinivasan, head of global development operations at Novartis, echoes that sentiment, telling CNBC, “We see Verily’s technology as a way for us to reach patients and get them interested.”

It could be as simple, he notes, as targeting people searching Google for asthma symptoms with notices about Verily’s Baseline clinical trial patient registry.

“From the beginning, our team on Baseline has been thinking a lot about how to bridge the gap between research and care,” stated Jessica Mega, Verily’s chief medical officer. “And we know that it would involve working with health systems, pharma and biotech companies.”

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Verily became an independent company inside Alphabet in 2016. One of its first initiatives was the Baseline clinical study, which launched in 2017. Its goal was to enroll 10,000 patients from a broad range of backgrounds to determine why people go from healthy to sick. It has moved recently beyond the Baseline study to broader partnerships, such as those with the Duke and Stanford Medicine, to enroll even more people in its registry.

The Baseline Health System Consortium, Verily states, “sit(s) at the nexus of clinical research and clinical care and are uniquely positioned to help Verily iterate on its technology to bridge the gap between research and care and further precision medicine.”

Perhaps disconcertingly, a company that handles 92.4% of internet searches globally and already has significant amounts of information about your life, now wants to know medical and health information as well.

“The clinical research system fails to provide the evidence that patients and clinicians need to make good health and healthcare decisions,” stated Robert Califf, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and an advisor to Verily. “By developing useful tools and approaches, this robust collaboration has the potential to drive more efficient and effective research as we link patients, advocacy groups, clinicians, health systems and researchers.”

In February, Verily teamed with the American Heart Association (AHA) on Research Goes Red, an initiative to engage women in cardiac health research. Verily launched Project Baseline Heart Biomarker Study earlier this month.

Reed Tuckson, chairman of the Project Baseline Advisory Board, stated, “If we are truly to achieve the realization of patient-centered care, we must advance innovative research methodologies that focus on the patient and their needs, values and lifestyles. Project Baseline, in collaboration with these innovative companies, is well positioned to achieve this vision and have a transformative impact on research.”

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