The latest news from Verily
Translating daily life into tools for diabetes
Friday, February 3, 2017
At Verily, we know that the tools we create to help people manage their health must seamlessly fit into their daily lives. After all, people are not the net sum of the disease or diseases they are managing, but are students or workers and mothers or fathers with many other priorities that come first. There are few places where user-centered design can have a greater impact than for those living with diabetes. In the U.S., there are more than 29 million people living with diabetes and 1.4 million new diagnoses annually. Living with diabetes is a constant balancing act, requiring many people with the disease to regularly monitor their blood sugar levels. Throughout my career as a researcher, I have seen how critical it is to not only create tools that generate more and better data on diabetes, but that also translate data into actionable information that is easily used by people managing their condition.
We have several ongoing projects that approach the challenges of diabetes management from different angles and the user experience of people living with diabetes drives many of our efforts in this space. Recently, I sat down with Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D., Chief Mission Officer for JDRF, who was in the Bay Area as part of the JDRF 2017 Mission Summit.
Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D., Chief Mission Officer for JDRF
, the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research, serves as an advisor to Verily, offering insight into the range of experiences and perspectives of people living with diabetes. We discussed one of our core capabilities at Verily, the miniaturization of electronics, and its potential impact on the daily lives of people living with diabetes. A version of this Q&A is also available on JDRF's
Aaron, if you could summarize in one word how you want people managing their diabetes to feel, what would that be?
“Free”. Right now, there is no cure for T1D, so people who live with this disease are forced to manage it by the hour, night and day, every day. It can be unrelenting.
As JDRF Chief Mission Officer, you are very connected to the experiences of people with type 1 diabetes. What are some of the daily challenges faced by people with this condition?
Families need help with this often unpredictable disease, which deprives people of sleep and flexibility in their daily lives. There are new treatment options that allow people with T1D to participate in sports, travel, sleepovers and other activities, but it still requires careful planning and consistent management. We can’t wait for the day when we are free from the hourly obligation to manage our blood glucose and free from worry about medical emergencies and serious complications that can shorten our lifespans. It’s our hope that the next generations of diabetes devices can help alleviate some of those worries while offering better health outcomes as JDRF works toward our ultimate goal—a cure for this disease.
From an engineering standpoint, what improvements could have the most impact?
I’m connected to type 1 diabetes through my position at JDRF, but I also have T1D, and my brother has lived with it for more than 40 years, so I know from personal experience that the smaller and less intrusive devices are, the more easily we can go about our everyday lives. That’s why JDRF is working with many different organizations to support research that can make miniaturization possible—from devices and their components to ultra-concentrated insulins.
What does the future of wearables look like in T1D?
While devices have made significant progress towards achieving superior health outcomes and a better quality of life, the reality is that none of us really want to have to wear something for the rest of our lives. Making devices smaller is one of several next steps in lifting the burden that comes with having diabetes.
Posted by Howard Zisser, M.D., Diabetes Clinical Lead
Bending Liftware to help more people in need
Thursday, December 1, 2016
When I first started Liftware in 2010, my goal was to help people suffering from movement-related disorders live more independently and fully. Often, everyday tasks that most people take for granted can be a struggle for individuals with mobility concerns. For example, people living with hand tremor (either from conditions like Parkinson’s disease or essential tremor) often experience difficulty holding their utensils to eat. Few things are more basic to a sense of independence than being able to feed yourself. With this in mind, we developed
(originally called “Liftware”), a computerized stabilizing handle and a selection of utensil attachments designed to counteract the effects of hand tremors so that users can eat with confidence.
But motion and movement disorders aren't limited to those living with hand tremors. People who’ve experienced spinal cord injury or post-stroke deficits, or who have conditions such as Huntington’s disease, or cerebral palsy (CP) may have significantly limited hand and arm mobility. There are more than 200,000 cases of CP per year in the United States alone. The problems these individuals face include reduced control over reflexes and muscles, which may impact their ability to eat independently since their range of motion may be too limited to even bring their hands to their mouths. The Liftware team wanted to help these people, too.
We started by working with physicians and watching how individuals with various movement conditions move and eat—and realized that the device needed to be able to stay level, regardless of how someone maneuvered their hands and arms. We made adjustments to our software algorithms. The team rapidly prototyped handles that were easy to hold but could still bend and twist in different directions. The design was then made sleeker to blend in better with other household items.
Today, I'm happy to
that we are ready to share
with the public. With sensors inside the handle, Liftware Level knows what position your hand is in at all times and adjusts its position to accommodate limited hand and arm mobility. We've seen that
, our original product, has helped those suffering from hand tremor relax and enjoy the company of those around them instead of worrying about the task at hand.
As we introduce Level to the broader community of those living with limited hand and arm mobility, we hope it will turn the everyday task of eating into a more pleasurable experience. That's why we're partnering with the Huntington Disease Society of America and Teva to give away Liftware Level Starter Kits, which includes the electronic handle and a soup spoon attachment, to the first people who apply.
Find out more about Liftware and our products at
Posted by Anupam Pathak, Creator of Liftware
Introducing the Debug Project
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Mosquitoes kill more people than every other animal combined. The diseases they spread sicken hundreds of millions of people each year. Towards the end of 2014, some of us at Google started exploring what we could do to help solve the mosquito problem. Serendipitously, around that same time, Verily was founded (initially as Google Life Sciences) with the objective of solving hard problems in science and biology with the ultimate goal of preventing disease on a global scale. It was a perfect match.
We talked with experts from around the world working on many different approaches. One stood out to us: the
the sterile insect technique
(SIT). The idea is to release sterile insects to mate with wild ones. No offspring result from these matings. So if enough sterile insects are released, they can reduce, or even locally eliminate, the wild population.
The sterile insect technique was first developed in the 1950s to combat a livestock pest called the
New World screwworm
. Here in California, SIT is used to control
Mediterranean fruit fly
. Unlike chemical pesticides, sterile insects are exquisitely precise. Insects only mate with others of their own species.
There have been many attempts over the years to use SIT to control mosquitoes. One problem is that the traditional method of using radiation to sterilize insects doesn’t work well on mosquitoes. The radiation dose necessary to sterilize mosquitoes makes them bad at mating. Recently, new techniques have been developed including one using a naturally-occurring bacteria called
. This bacteria sterilizes mosquitoes, while preserving their ability to compete for mates in the wild.
Another problem is cost. For SIT to work, a lot of mosquitoes must be raised and released. A lot of male mosquitoes, specifically. Male and female mosquitoes feed on plant nectar, but only females bite and feed on blood. By releasing only males, which can’t bite, there aren’t more mosquitoes that can spread disease. Unfortunately, raising mosquitoes and separating the males from females is currently very labor intensive, making it too expensive to deploy at a large scale.
We decided to focus on the problem of reducing that cost with automation. We’re using Verily’s combination of data analytics, sensors, lab automation technology, and scientific expertise to solve specific issues around mass-production and sex-sorting of mosquitoes, and to enable efficient and targeted releases.
We also decided to focus on one particular mosquito: Aedes aegypti. While there are thousands of different species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti is the primary vector of dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever, and there aren’t good ways to control this mosquito.
The Debug Project is still early. We've built a team of mosquito biologists, software engineers and automation experts who are all passionate about solving the problem of mosquito borne diseases. We have promising prototypes of our automated rearing, sex separation, and release systems along with new designs for sensors and traps to measure mosquito populations.
We’re announcing Debug today because we’ll soon be ready to try these outside of our lab. We want to engage with local communities and government regulators to find the right places for field trials and ensure those trials are safe and effective.
To keep up on our team’s efforts, you can follow this blog or learn more at
Posted by Linus Upson, VP of Engineering
Congrats to One Brave Idea™ winner, Dr. Calum MacRae
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
On November 8th of last year, Verily and the American Heart Association (AHA) made a big
. Together, we would invest in one visionary approach focused on novel strategies to prevent and reverse coronary heart disease (CHD). I remember the date well because I was there and included in my
that I was joining Verily as Head of Cardiovascular Innovations.
Cardiovascular diseases are the largest cause of death globally, accounting for about one of every three deaths, with CHD the top underlying cause. In order to move the needle on this global problem, Verily, AHA, and now AstraZeneca have committed to
collectively invest $75 million
to this initiative, a transformative award directed towards an ambitious approach to CHD and its consequences.
The genesis of this award came from asking ourselves, “what does it mean to truly believe in and commit to a visionary idea?” We wanted to take a stand and invest in a leader, and to provide sustained support over several years to give the awarded team the resources and time to fully realize a bold vision. "One Brave Idea" officially launched and began accepting applications in January 2016. Our hope is that this initiative will catalyze other similar grants that move rapidly and provide durable funding.
Today, I am excited to congratulate the winner of One Brave Idea™: Dr. Calum MacRae, Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and his broad multidisciplinary team. From reading the hundreds of applications to identifying the winner, it has been thrilling to participate in this selection process. We look forward to helping Dr. MacRae and his team, in concert with the AHA and AstraZeneca, accomplish this important mission.
Watch our YouTube Live Stream from today, featuring a roundtable discussion with Dr. McRae and representatives from the Joint Leadership Group of Verily, AHA, and AstraZeneca. To read more about Dr. MacRae and the winning idea, see our
. We're excited to see where this research can lead!
Posted by Mike McConnell, MD, MSEE, Head of Cardiovascular Health Innovations at Verily
Investigating Parkinson’s disease in a new way
Friday, September 30, 2016
What does Parkinson’s disease look like? Slowed movement, tremor, muscle rigidity, balance problems, changes in speech and more—the list of symptoms is long and varied. There is still much to understand about this neurodegenerative condition. Because more than 10 million people worldwide are affected by this disorder, there's also an urgent need to develop therapies that halt or at least slow progression of the disease.
As a neurologist, when I meet a patient newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I’m able to give reassurance that there are many treatments available to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s and to improve their function. I’m not, however, able to provide an intervention that stops the diseases, reverses it, or even decelerates its unavoidable progression. And when asked to offer a prognosis, I am limited again in how I can help. The quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s can be so varied—two people, diagnosed on the same day with the same symptoms, may be living entirely different lives 10 years later.
As a researcher, I am keenly aware of the excellent work being done in the field, including molecular investigations, genetic research, brain imaging, and more. But we still don't understand Parkinson's disease well enough. Our current approach has left many questions unanswered and patients waiting.
That’s why I’m excited to announce the launch of a new, multi-year research study in collaboration with
Radboud University Medical Center
, and Verily Life Sciences. Based in the Netherlands, this study will explore many factors that may be impacting the course of Parkinson’s disease. Our vision is to identify new biological markers that allow us to track the progression of the disease more sensitively and ultimately inform better treatments. We’ll accomplish this using sophisticated molecular analyses, advanced brain imaging, and wearable devices. The sensors in these devices are capable of measuring key information like vital signs and activity level, making it possible to perform in-depth analyses and characterizations of the disease.
Bastiaan Bloem, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neurological Movement Disorders and Founder of ParkinsonNet with William Marks, M.D. of Verily
will bring together the internationally recognized experts in Parkinson’s disease at Radboud University and Medical Center like Professor
, the comprehensive care network of ParkinsonNet, and the analytical power of Verily. Our research will aggregate multiple data points from a nationally representative cohort to identify patterns that affect the progression of the disease. This rare access to a “real-life” sample is enabled by the infrastructure built by the highly awarded ParkinsonNet, comprised of 3,000 medical and allied health professionals covering all people with Parkinson’s disease in the country of the Netherlands.
The data we collect will also be made available to qualified researchers interested in gleaning new insights about Parkinson’s disease. This study is pioneering a novel privacy method called polymorphic encryption and pseudonymization (PEP), developed by renowned digital security experts Professors
of the Digital Security Group at the Institute for Computing and Information Sciences at Radboud University. We're excited to use this cutting edge privacy and security technique in our clinical research.
It is truly a unique opportunity for our research community to work together toward better outcomes for the people we serve. The research will take time, but I am optimistic that this approach can change the way my future conversations with Parkinson’s patients will sound—filled with a brighter outlook on their health.
Posted by William Marks, MD, MS, Head of Clinical Neurology at Verily
One year, one mission
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
It has been one year since Verily became an Alphabet company, but we’re building on a legacy that extends much further back. From inception, our mission has been to deploy our technology and expertise into the field of healthcare to help improve people’s lives. We’re doing this by developing platforms and tools that help gather, organize, and understand health information so that it is useful and actionable. Together with our partners, we're hopeful that these platforms and tools will result in better prevention and management of health conditions in the future.
Our focus is in three key areas: developing wireless
that can generate rich data sets, organizing health data from disparate sources for machine-learning and development of powerful
algorithms, and conducting
that can meaningfully advance our fundamental understanding of biology and disease.
We recognize that no company acting alone can affect major change in healthcare and so our approach is to partner with leading life sciences companies, government organizations, health systems, and patient advocacy groups with deep domain expertise. Our partners help shape and inform our projects and add speed, precision, and scale to our efforts.
We're early in our journey, but have entered into several exciting partnerships and joint ventures that advance our mission:
with Dexcom to develop miniaturized, disposable continuous glucose monitors (CGM)—the first CGMs tailored for Type 2 diabetes.
of Onduo, a joint venture created through Sanofi and Verily’s diabetes-focused collaboration
with GSK to invest jointly in Galvani Bioelectronics to enable the research, development, and commercialization of bioelectronic medicines
with Alcon, the eye care division of Novartis, on a smart lens program that includes projects to develop both a glucose sensing lens and an accommodating lens
of Verb Surgical, a robotic surgery joint venture with J&J
Our passion and urgency in our work is because we know people are waiting—and we believe the future of medicine lies at the intersection of health and technology. Through this blog we'll aim to share our progress and perspective, so please follow us if you’d like to stay informed.
Posted by Brian Otis, Chief Technical Officer, Verily
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