Four-year study to produce a molecular snapshot
Alphabet's life sciences unit Verily has kicked off a project that will examine the risk factors that come into play as a person moves from health to sickness.
The initiative comes under the Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences) Project Baseline, which is trying to establish a reference standard for good health so that it will become possible to identify deviations from that standard which serves as early warning signals for disease. Added to that, the company hopes the project will create ‘a new set of tools for medical discovery’.
With the help of Duke University and Stanford Medicine in the US, Verily intends to recruit 10,000 volunteers who will undergo a battery of sampling and measurements - spanning clinical, molecular, imaging, sensor, self-reported, behavioural, psychological and environmental factors - over a four-year period.
The aim is to profile the volunteers' genetics, protein make-up and the like - in a kind of molecular snapshot - but will also try to tie in new technologies such as wearables to understand them at a digital level, according to Dr Jessica Mega, Verily's chief medical officer.
As well as providing biological samples, the recruits - who will include people who are exceptionally healthy, at-risk of disease and with overt disease - will wear a newly-developed Verily study watch that measures electrocardiogram (ECG) and heart rate, electrodermal activity and activity levels, and will automatically upload data to the cloud.
Volunteers will also use a new mobile app, have their sleep monitored using a special bed and take part in regular surveys.
"We are creating an infrastructure that can process multi-dimensional health data - much of which have never been combined for an individual,” said Mega in a blog post. "In the future, the intent is to make de-identified data from the Project Baseline study available to qualified researchers to spur new ideas across the broad ecosystem."
The new Verily watch will also be deployed in some of Verily's other initiatives including its Personalized Parkinson's Project with Radboud University in the Netherlands, which is attempting to identify biological markers that will reduce the progression of the disease - as well as potentially the impact of drug treatments - to be tracked more sensitively.