When the name of the company was brought up, I innocently asked, “What on earth is Verily?”. It turns out that the company is part of Google. Previously a branch of the Google X experimental division, Verily became an independent subsidiary of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) in 2015.
Verily is focused on using technology to better understand health and manage disease. Among the various technologies being created by Verily are contact lenses that allow diabetes patients to check their glucose levels continually, a spoon for people with tremors, a disease-detecting nano-particle platform and advancements in surgical robotics.
Google may also be planning an Irish expansion and is reportedly in talks to rent the Irish Life Investment Managers-owned Velasco building, a 51,000 sq ft building on Grand Canal in Dublin, which is still under construction. The move will see Google add 400 new jobs in Dublin, where it already employs more than 6,000 people.
But what exactly do they sell? Undoubtedly, it’s filled with really really smart people. But the question is whether Verily is fundamentally a business–selling stuff, and aspiring to make more money than they spend–or a salon, where the great healthcare thinkers of the day come to contemplate deep and important problems involving medicine and data. It has to harness the impressive intellect flowing into and out of the company and translate the promise into a revolutionary (or simply profitable) business.
With a huge budget (allowing them to drop a rumored eight figures on their Baseline study), a seemingly endless supply of medical and technology talent and a global supply of eager partners hoping for a brush with Google greatness, Verily is emerging as a crucible for health and data thinking.
But the Baseline study brings about many challenges. One of the trickiest parts of studies of populations is building the population. Even with 10,000 people on board, how do you make sure they’re representative of the wider world? Too many men, too many old people, too many anything and your results will suck. For example, because of Baseline’s use of “liquid biopsies” and other tests, subjects have to be able to get to Palo Alto, Durham, or Los Angeles. That’s a potential geographic bias. That right there is fascinating. Verily is taking great care to have a sample that’ll yield statistically significant results. It’ll always, by definition, be a sample of people who use Google. And that’s … almost everyone.
Great ideas will unquestionably emerge, elevating the entire healthcare ecosystem, especially as talented alums refresh existing companies, or (like Insel) launch exciting new startups.
But will Verily itself succeed as a business? We probably have to wait and see.