Google's Verily Taps Communications Chief to Craft Company Message and Battle Media Criticism
June 16, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
SAN FRANCISCO – Verily, Google’s life sciences division, has snapped up another big name – Carolyn Wang, who will take over as the company’s chief communications officer at a time when the company is facing scrutiny over its “moonshot” product goals.
Wang currently serves as president of the marketing and communications company, Brewlife Agency, a division of W2O. She has served in various aspects at W20 since 2004, according to Wang’s LinkedIn account. Before W20 she was at Ogilvy Public Relations, where she managed strategic planning and media relations for healthcare clients, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, the National Institutes of Health and Sun Microsystems.
Wang is scheduled to begin her new role at Verily in July, according to the Holmes Report, which cited an internal W20 memo issued by Jim Weiss, that company’s chief executive officer. In the memo, Wang said she was passionate about Verily’s mission to ultimately “make healthcare cheaper and more accessible to millions of people.”
Wang takes over Verily’s message crafting at a time when there is increased scrutiny over the lofty devices the company envisions developing. A recent StatNews report questioned Verily’s products and found the most prominently talked-about ones are “plagued by serious, if not fatal, scientific shortcomings.” The devices include Verily’s tricorder, a device using nanoparticles to track down cancer cells in the body; a contact lens that reads glucose levels in the body; and the billion-dollar Baseline study.
A working prototype of the tricorder was supposed to be available several years ago, but has yet to be seen. Former employees said the project is “floundering,” according to the StatNews report.
Verily has teamed with Novartis, one of the largest insulin makers in the world, to develop the lens, although there have been some questions as to if it can do what the company wants. One aspect of the lens would be an LED light system that would light up to warn the wearer when glucose levels were too high or low.
The Baseline Study program is part of the precision medicine initiative to “understand what it means to be healthy, down to the molecular and cellular level.” There has been speculation though that the study is neither long nor large enough to generate the results Verily is hoping for.
Although Verily is facing questions over the reliability of its devices, the company has surged ahead in its hiring of top executives and moving into new digs in San Francisco. Verily recently secured the 400,000 square-foot space formerly occupied by Onyx Pharmaceuticals in the heart of San Francisco’s biotech industry.
Verily has also been on something of a hiring spree, attracting many tech specialists, as well as employees from more established biotech companies such as Amgen, Abbott and Illumina. Some of the noted individuals who have signed on with Verily include Abbott’s John Hernandez, who is head of health economics for Verily and Jason Hipp, formerly of Bristol-Myers Squibb, who now heads the pathology department. Last year Jessica Mega, a prominent cardiologist at Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who came aboard Verily to helm its Baseline Study and is also serving as Verily’s chief medical officer.