Alphabet unit Verily, previously known as Google Life Sciences, has raised $1 billion in investment capital. The development, with the money coming from third-party investors such as private equity and pension funds including the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, is a further indication in the trend towards the anticipated big data revolution in healthcare. Verily’s focus is on using AI and big data to unearth previously hidden secrets to the prevention and prediction of diseases and conditions.
Verily is part of a stable of Google-parent Alphabet-owned companies that are grouped together under the label of ‘other bets’, which separates them off from the company’s core revenue-generation business of search engine-based digital advertising. Biotech specialists Calico and Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous vehicles play are two other notable stable-mates of Verily. All three are currently investments that are not expected to evolve into serious revenue generators in the near term but are considered to hold significant longer term promise.
The $1 billion investment, led by private equity giants Silver Lake, will, the Verily announcement on the raise detailed, be used to develop ‘strategic partnerships’ and ‘acquisitions’ as well as developing the business on a global level. As part of the conditions attached to the major new cash injection, two new Verily board members, Egon Durban, one of Silver Lake’s managing partners, and Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat, will be nominated.
Verily’s projects are high risk investments such as the now stalled attempt to develop contact lenses for diabetics that are able to read the wearer’s glucose levels by analysing their tears. However, the company recently announced that readings had not proven accurate and research was to be put on hold. However, investors in the latest technology in the world of life sciences accept that for every successful project there will inevitably be several dead ends.
One of Verily’s most promising projects is considered to be ‘Project Baseline’. In partnership with Duke University and Stanford Medicine, Project Baseline is using blood tests and scans to collect deep data on more than 10,000 individuals. As the project’s name suggests, that data will be used as a ‘baseline’ against which new individual data will be benchmarked. A smart watch that gathers health data through a range of sophisticated sensors is another project currently in the works.
Commenting on the investment, Verily chief executive Andrew Conrad stated:
“Adding a well-rounded group of seasoned investors, led by Silver Lake, will further prepare us to execute as healthcare continues the shift towards evidence generation and value-based reimbursement models”.