Google life sciences group to wage war on diabetes

Google will work with drug maker Sanofi on digitizing the process of managing diabetes

150820 google contact lens

Verily's smart glucose-monitoring contact lens technology may be the first major smart contact lens on the market. 

Credit: Verily Life Sciences

Google may still be working on a name for its recently spun off life sciences group, but the division already has a foe: diabetes.

On Monday, Google said the chronic disease will be the first illness the life sciences division focuses on as it becomes a separate business under the new Alphabet holding company.

The search giant also wants to digitize how people manage their diabetes and is partnering with drug maker Sanofi to develop technologies that could aid in that process. 

Diabetics use mobile apps, medical devices and even pieces of paper to record food intake, log blood sugar levels, track fitness activities and determine medication doses, Google said. Given the hassles of using these unintegrated methods, only around half of diabetics achieve their target glucose levels, according to a study from The New England Journal of Medicine that was cited by Google.

The medical consequences of not managing diabetes include heart disease, stroke and nerve damage.

Since the partnership is new, neither Google nor Sanofi could say exactly how the search giant's technology could be used by the pharmaceutical company. The goal, though, is to use Google technology including sensors, wearable devices and analytics tools to give doctors and patients more insight into how to better manage diabetes.

For example, the technology could help explain to a physician why a person's glucose level has spiked for several days or provide real-time information related to a patient's insulin dosage or diet.

Google Life Sciences chief Andy Conrad [cq] told Bloomberg smart insulin and measurement devices could come out of the partnership.

The deal's financial terms weren't disclosed.

Google's life sciences group has made other forays into diabetes research. The company is working with drug company Novartis on creating a contact lens that uses tears to measure a person's blood sugar levels. Earlier this month, Google and medical device maker Dexcom said they would collaborate on creating a small sensor that would continuously monitor a person's glucose levels and be connected to the cloud.

Once part of the secretive Google X research lab, the life sciences unit became its own company under a massive reorganization at the search giant. A name hasn't been selected for the new venture.

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