Technology

Google, Heart Association Team Up to Fight Heart Disease

The search giant's corporate parent is teaming with the medical group on an ambitious $50 million initiative to create a multidisciplinary research team to get to the heart of the No. 1 cause of death worldwide, heart disease.

Heart disease is a complex problem in need of a solution. So, if you’re the American Heart Association, it only makes sense to work with a company known for solving complex problems.

That’s what AHA is getting as part of its new deal with Google and its parent company, Alphabet. The association will team with Google Life Sciences in a $50 million, five-year partnership that will bring researchers together from a variety of disciplines to “understand, prevent, and reverse coronary heart disease.”

The company and association are each putting up $25 million to get the endeavor off the ground.

“By working together, AHA and Google Life Sciences will be able to serve as the catalyst for change and transformation in reducing the impact of coronary heart disease on people’s lives and alleviating this global burden,” AHA CEO Nancy Brown noted in a statement. “Just imagine if we could reverse coronary artery disease and restore the healthy heart muscle it destroys or, even better, prevent the whole process from beginning in the first place!”

A Tech-Minded Strategy

The approach that the initiative is taking is somewhat unusual. Rather than drawing from a single group of researchers or a single discipline, it will combine the help of technologists, doctors, and engineers, among others. This team will be run by a leader who could conceivably come from any of the disciplines.

“This is a fundamentally different kind of model for funding innovation,” Google Life Sciences CEO Andy Conrad said in the news release. “The team leader will be able to bring together clinicians, engineers, designers, basic researchers and other experts to think in new ways about the causes of coronary heart disease.”

It remains to be seen how the move will be accepted in the medical and regulatory communities, which have reacted with skepticism to medical startups from Silicon Valley, such as the Google-funded genomics firm 23andMe. The blood-testing company Theranos, another firm facing scrutiny in the media and medical community of late, is changing its leadership structure in response to heavy scrutiny about its reliance on well-connected board members who don’t come from the medical world.

Nonetheless, the new AHA-Google Life Sciences partnership offers much to keep an eye on. It represents the largest one-time research investment in AHA’s history and also represents Google’s first major investment outside of the technology sector since reorganizing itself as Alphabet earlier this year.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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