Google wants to disrupt diabetes with new Sanofi partnership

It’s official: Diabetes will be the first major focus of Google’s life sciences wing as it shifts into becoming its own subsidiary of parent company Alphabet.

And its fast-growing team of about 150 scientists and engineers is wasting no time, announcing Monday a partnership with French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi SA and a renowned diabetes research institute in Boston.

“Google has a real desire and focus to transform health care,” said John Brooks, CEO of the Harvard-affiliated Joslin Diabetes Center, in an interview Monday. “The idea here is to really disrupt health care and disrupt diabetes. I think they want to be right in the middle of it.”

Brooks said he met in the spring with Andy Conrad, CEO of Alphabet’s as-yet-unnamed life sciences company, and was impressed by the “very disruptive technologies” the team was developing.

Google has already publicly revealed several of its inventions and collaborations that could play a role in diabetes management: a wristband that can act as a health sensor; a glucose-monitoring contact lens developed in partnership with Alcon, the eye care division of Novartis; and another glucose monitoring partnership with San Diego-based Dexcom that would involve a disposable, Internet-connected device the size of a Band-aid.

Sanofi, which sells insulin drugs and other medications, said in a joint statement with Google on Monday that it would leverage the Mountain View tech giant’s “expertise in analytics, miniaturized electronics and low power chip design” with its own medical treatments.

The companies declined to say how much they have invested in the deal or how long it will last.

The Joslin Diabetes Center, which frequently works with Sanofi on clinical research, will serve as an adviser.

Helping people track and manage their own blood sugar levels through diet, exercise and drugs is key to treating the chronic disease, and “we have a particular expertise in really translating (treatment models) so it’s something patients want to use,” Brooks said. He said Google’s experience in making consumer devices could also help in battling a disease the International Diabetes Federation predicts will surge from affecting nearly 400 million people today to 592 million by 2035.

Google said in a statement Monday that its Sanofi collaboration “will bring together life sciences companies, medical device companies, academic researchers, and patient advocacy groups, who can help evaluate and enable new kinds of interventions that help patients and physicians manage diabetes more proactively. For example, new technologies could make it simple for a physician to understand when a patient’s blood sugar is tracking high for days in a row, or could offer new ways for a patient to get real-time information and specific guidance about diet or insulin dosage.”

In addition to announcing its Sanofi partnership, Google also on Monday revealed the leadership within its new life science divisions and what they are working on. Here’s what the company says about its developing products:

  • Smart contact lens — led by Brian Otis– with an embedded computer chip and glucose sensor the size of a piece of glitter, the lens is being developed to measure glucose in tears continuously. We’ve licensed this technology to Alcon, a division of Novartis, to continue development and hopefully one day offer a new way for the 300 million people with diabetes to manage their disease.
  • Cardiac and activity monitor — led by Kobus Jooste– is a wrist worn device that measures ECG, pulse, skin temperature, activity levels and environmental variables such as humidity and pressure. The cardiac and activity monitor is developed in partnership with clinicians to advance the state of the art of clinical trials.
  • Liftware products — led by Anupam Pathak– the stabilizing handle, spoon and fork attachments are designed to help people with hand tremor eat more easily. Liftware is available for sale at liftware.com. The team is developing new ways to monitor tremor in clinical trials and is working with physicians and patients to improve the understanding of Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Disease.
  • Nanotechnology platform — led by Vik Bajaj– a project to develop targeted nanoparticle platforms for applications in diagnosis and treatment of disease. These tools may one day help to detect cancer and other diseases earlier, understand their biology more completely, and create more precise treatments. We will work with partners in developing this technology have deep expertise in specific disease states and associated drug pipelines.
  • Robotic-assisted surgical tools — we’re collaborating with Johnson & Johnson to develop the next generation of robotic-assisted surgical technologies. We’ll explore how advanced imaging, image analysis and new sensors and effectors can give surgeons greater situational awareness and support.
  • The Baseline Study — a multi-year scientific research study led by Dr. Jessica Mega in close collaboration with academic research partners. We are going to apply the latest technologies and molecular tools – many of which weren’t available even a few years ago – to create a better understanding of health and what happens when someone transitions to disease that the broader medical community can leverage for years to come. We also have a collaboration in multiple sclerosis with Biogen Idec; we’ll use sensors, laboratory science, and bio-analytical tools to better define and understand how and why the disease impacts each individual patient so differently.

Above: A contact lens that measures glucose levels in tears is one of the products being developed by Google’s life sciences team as it becomes its own subsidiary of parent company Alphabet. A glitter-sized wireless chip and sensor could serve as an early warning for the diabetes patient who wears it, switching on tiny LED lights when blood sugar levels cross a threshold. (Photo courtesy of Google)

 

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  • What Google, the government or the medical people need to do is to have all of our medical information and thorough eating habits entered into an IBM Watson computer. Then infuse the computer with all the available medical knowledge and let the computer tell all of us how to live a healthy life while also letting us know what we are doing wrong in our lifestyle that is making us sick. The info gained from the massive amount of people being monitored by Watson the computer will help us all greatly while also providing us all with our own health consular, be it mechanical… .

 
 
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