Alphabet has been investing heavily in life science research through its venture capital arm, GV, and experimental medical technology. Now, GV and Verily are teaming up with a startup called Verve Therapeutics to reduce the risk of heart disease. In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death. Verve is working on an injection therapy that will stop millions of people from taking pills every day. For Alphabet, Verve represents a potential source of income for one of the most important early science projects that X (formerly Google X) hatched. X is a research and development laboratory and home to Waymo’s self-driving cars, Wing’s delivery drones and the Chronicle network security program.
In 2016, Google truly became an independent company of Alphabet. Last year, it raised $1 billion from outside through a round of financing from private equity firm Silver Lake. Most of the company’s projects, from surgical robots to clinical research, are still in the research stage, but the company will begin to face increasing pressure to commercialize its technology and generate returns. Alphabet’s chief financial officer, Ruth Porat, joined the company’s board of directors when the Silver Lake deal was reached.
Verily recently announced a partnership with Verve and provided $60 million in financing, most of which comes from GV. In its early days, it was indeed called Google Life Sciences. One of the company’s projects focus on nanoparticles, which can be used to help improve targeted microparticles for drug treatment. Google has a team of engineers and scientists who have been working on this technology for many years. Verily said in a blog post that they began researching new ways to treat diseases, including potential new drugs.
“This is one of the earliest science projects in Google Life Sciences, when it was part of Google X,” said Dr. Jessica Mega, chief medical officer and medical cardiologist at Verily. Although Alphabet is known for online advertising, she said: “We can do basic science, and we are actually ready.”
“Our ultimate goal is to protect the world from heart disease,” said Verve’s CEO Dr. Sek Kathiresan.
In the United States, although pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars on potential treatments, more than 600,000 people die of heart disease each year. Kathiresan said that Verve was initially concerned with a rare disease that is associated with extremely high cholesterol levels, affecting one in every million people. Since then, Verve has hoped to offer a new one-time injection therapy to replace tablets. Verve is using the CRISPR tool to develop these gene editing technologies and working with another startup, Beam Therapeutics. One of Verve’s main challenges will be to prove to doctors and potential buyers that this treatment is more effective than traditional medicine.