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Sanofi sets up diabetes joint venture with Google's Verily

Onduo aims to bring together medicines with new devices and software

Google HQ 

Sanofi has firmed up its relationship with Google's life sciences unit to try to inject a new dose of technology into its diabetes care portfolio.

Sanofi is already one of the biggest players in insulin and other diabetes medicines, but will now set up a joint venture with Verily Life Sciences - called Onduo - that will bring its drugs together with new devices and software that will try to improve control of the disease.

Sanofi and Google have been working together on digital health tools for type 1 and type 2 diabetes for around a year, and the formation of Onduo takes their collaboration to a higher level.

Verily has already made waves in the life sciences sector with projects such its wearable device to measure pulse, heart rhythm and skin temperature, robotic pills and nanoparticles to detect disease. 

Sanofi will be hoping it can tap into some of that tech expertise as it follows the trend among pharma companies to try to become more than simply product companies and get increasingly involved in the delivery of patient care. 

The venture will combine Sanofi's clinical diabetes experience with Verily's expertise in "miniaturised electronics, analytics, and consumer software development" with the aim of achieving "simple and intelligent disease management" for diabetes patients. 

It will also try to tap into patient and physician networks and has already collaborations with Sutter Health of Northern California and Allegheny Health Network of western Pennsylvania.

Onduo is being headed up by Joshua Riff, a medic by training who has previously held senior roles at health services company Optum, part of United Healthcare, and the Target group. It will be based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Google's recently-expanded campus.

The venture will initially focus on type 2 diabetes and try to develop products that will help living with the disease, for example monitoring food intake, measuring blood glucose levels and interacting with healthcare professionals.

The objective is to "help people make better decisions about their day to day health, ranging from improved medication management to improved habits and goals", said Sanofi in a statement.

The pharma company's head of diabetes and cardiovascular, Peter Guenter, said Ondua will adopt a more "service-centric" approach compared to a conventional drugmaker.

"The integration of multiple interventions, such as data-driven patient support and devices in addition to treatment, can help improve outcomes," he added.

Just over a year ago, Google set up Alphabet as a holding company to replace Google Inc as the official publicly-traded entity for the group, separating Google as its established search engine business from more speculative technology ventures such as Verily and ageing-focused pharma unit Calico.

Google has made diabetes a key element of its life science strategy. The Sanofi joint venture follows a deal with Novartis for a glucose-sensing contact lens as well as an agreement with DexCom to develop a new range of continuous glucose-monitoring products.

Article by
Phil Taylor

12th September 2016

From: Sales

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