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April 20, 2017

Why do people get sick? Google is recruiting 10,000 people to help find out

Daily Briefing

Alphabet's Verily Life Sciences, formerly Google Life Sciences, on Wednesday launched a four-year study as part of its Project Baseline initiative, which is intended to determine why healthy individuals get sick.

Verily CMO Jessica Mega said the study aims to "create a map of human health."

Study details

According to CNBC, Verily will work with Duke University and Stanford Medicine to enroll 10,000 people to participate in the study at research sites based in California and North Carolina. The researchers are looking for individuals with diverse backgrounds, including people who are healthy and people who are at high risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

As part of the study, the researchers will give participants an advanced health tracker developed by Verily called Study Watch, sequence participants' genomes, and provide electrocardiograms and psychological assessments, CNBC reports. The researchers also will ask participants for data from their electronic health records, insurance claims, smartphones, and social media activity, according to BloombergBusinessWeek.

The researchers hope to identify early indicators of disease in the data they collect, which will include information on participants' activity, heart rate, genomics, sleep, and more. Identifying the early warning signs of disease might help to determine lifestyle changes or clinical interventions that potentially could keep people from developing the conditions, CNBC reports.

AHA, Google partner on initiative to combat heart disease

Adrian Hernandez, a lead researcher for Project Baseline and a professor of medicine at Duke, said the researchers will update participants with their findings, particularly if the researchers find a participant needs medical care. However, Hernandez said it will be "at least five years" before the researchers' findings will be useful to the public.

Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School team up to teach 'Dr. Google' new tricks

Tempered praise

Former FDA Commissioner Robert Califf praised Verily's focus on preventive medicine, but cautioned that preventing disease is difficult. "At times, Silicon Valley people are very naïve about the complexity of health care," he said, adding, "It's going to be a lot harder than they think" (Farr, CNBC, 4/19; Verily release, 4/19; Chen/Bergen, BloombergBusinessWeek, 4/19).

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