Since its foundation in 1998, Google, LLC, has changed the way people access information in the developed world. According to data reported by Smart Insights, Google facilitates around 3.5 billion Internet searches on average every day and remains the market leader for online search engines worldwide.
The company’s massive success over the course of just two decades led to the formation of a conglomerate established to oversee its growing, varied business interests, today known as Alphabet, Inc. With the formation of Alphabet, the executive team at Google diverted some of its resources to other areas of development beyond its search engine. Arguably one of the most important enterprises to arise out of this arrangement is Verily Life Sciences, which began as a division within Google’s top secret “Google X” facility, and in 2015, became an independent research organization with broadminded goals.
Today, Verily Life Sciences represents one of just a few major organizations to widely employ convergent research in the field of biomedicine. The work of companies such as Verily are crucial to the future of Convergence in Healthcare, and Verily’s projects provide an excellent example of the power of the movement to yield groundbreaking, innovative tools that address pressing human health needs. Listed below are three of the company’s exciting projects rooted in convergent research.
Sensors: the Smart Lens Program
According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2017, more than 100 million Americans are living with diabetes or prediabetes. Though researchers have identified lifestyle changes that may allow patients with Type 2 diabetes to achieve remission, the medical community has yet to find a cure for either the Type 1 or Type 2 forms of the disease.
Until they identify a cure, many scientists are focused on finding new ways to help diabetes patients manage their symptoms. People who live with diabetes must maintain strict schedules of monitoring and responding to changes in their blood glucose levels. This process can be inconvenient and may require painful steps to test the blood.
Verily’s Smart Lens Program aims to address this exact issue. The company is relying on a diverse team of medical scientists, mechanical engineers, electrochemistry, and other experts to create soft contact lenses capable of measuring blood glucose levels in real-time. Not only would the lenses monitor blood glucose without extra action from the wearer, but they could also alert the wearer if their glucose levels climb too high by flashing an LED across the surface of the lens, into the person’s line of vision.
Precision medicine: Immunoscape
Inflammation doesn’t sound like a major health concern, but physicians know chronic inflammation can aggravate or may cause some of the world’s most debilitating diseases. Researchers are particularly interested in the role chronic inflammation plays in certain autoimmune disorders, as some scientists believe it may cause white blood cells to begin attacking healthy body tissues. Autoimmune disorders include illnesses such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Recently, Verily joined forces with biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc., to study these three inflammatory autoimmune diseases through the use of its Immunoscape platform. Immunoscape is a mapping tool that combines information from laboratory phenotyping conducted by biomedical researchers with analysis performed by computing experts. The goal is to create in-depth, molecular maps of inflammatory diseases that scientists can use to explore how each disease develops — with the ultimate aim to identify better treatments for patients.
These profiles are currently being used in the collaboration between Verily and Gilead to explore immune cell subtype activity. Ultimately, according to Gilead’s chief scientific officer, the partnership hopes Verily’s convergence-based research tool allows the company to help medical doctors more accurately prescribe treatments and dosages for patients suffering from inflammatory autoimmune diseases to achieve longer-lasting periods of remission.
Interventional medicine: Galvani Bioelectronics
As new discoveries and technological developments allow science to advance, the medical community continues to learn more about the manifestation of disease in the human body and how to treat it. Convergence-based research approaches are creating new tools for the medical community that were unimaginable in the not-so-distant past, such as the bioelectronic medicines being studied via a joint venture between Verily Life Sciences and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
Known as Galvani Bioelectronics, the project was established in 2016 to further the groundbreaking field of bioelectronic medicine, which focuses on using implantable electronic devices to stimulate specific areas of the brain and nervous system to treat various diseases and conditions. The project is a quintessential example of the importance of Convergence in Healthcare, as it brings together biologists, technologists, IT experts, engineers and health experts to potentially create a treatment that could one day replace drug therapy as the primary treatment for many serious illnesses. Bioelectronic medicine could create a future free of unwanted drug side effects and allow for more personalized healthcare.
According to a recent article published by MDDIOnline.com, Galvani Bioelectronics will invest seven years and $700 million to pursue bioelectronic medical initiatives for the treatment of endocrine, inflammatory and metabolic disorders, including Type 2 diabetes. This bold, convergent approach to medicine may yield major advances in medicine and great improvements in public health.