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Google Is Taking on Diabetes

Diabetes care represents a huge portion of medical costs in the U.S. In 2012, diabetes care expenses amounted to $245 billion in this country, and as type 2 diabetes grows in prevalence, expenditures are poised to climb. To reduce costs, morbidity, and mortality, it is important that diabetes self-management is made easier and less cumbersome for patients, many of whom have to deal with painful injections, finger sticks, and constant monitoring of their blood glucose levels.

Considering the opportunities for improvement of diabetes care combined with growing consumer familiarity with wearables (electronic devices such as Fitbit that can passively collect health-related data such as heart rate or calories burned), it is not surprising that Google’s new Life Sciences division has chosen diabetes as its first target. The unit, headed by molecular biologist Andy Conrad, developed from Google X, is a research department of Google. It will operate under Alphabet, Inc., a Google-related holding company.

Google intends to develop technologies that will help patients better track and manage the information they need to better control their blood glucose levels. The result could be improved outcomes for patients, which results in fewer adverse events such as hypoglycemia, which can be both debilitating and costly.

One such Google Life Sciences project is a contact lens that can painlessly measure glucose levels from tears. It is currently being developed with Sanofi, the France-based pharmaceutical conglomerate. Google has also secured partnerships with Novartis and Dexcom. The unit is also working with other companies for different disease states. For example, Biogen is collaborating with Google Life Sciences for development of novel multiple sclerosis treatments.

There are currently no tentative release dates for any project from the team. These devices are likely years away from hitting the market due to regulations and technical challenges.

Practice Pearls:

  • Google Life Sciences is a division of Google focused on developing products and technologies to help treat and manage various disease states.
  • It is currently focused on improving diabetes care. The goal of their developments is to help patients better collect and manage important information to improve blood sugar management.
  • One currently announced product is a contact lens that can measure glucose levels quickly and painlessly from tears. However, no products are slated for release soon.

Farr C. “Why Google Is Going All in on Diabetes.” National Public Radio website. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/09/06/437570402/why-google-is-going-all-in-on-diabetes. Published September 6, 2015.