The Wall Street Journal reports that Google has begun a project called the Baseline Study to collect individual health information and correlate this with diseases conditions over time. The Google project leader, Andrew Conrad, is best known for his work on quick, cheap HIV screening of blood donations. At Google, Conrad supervises a team of 70-to-100 people, made up of physiologists, biochemists, and experts in optics, imaging and molecular biology. The goal is to amass a behemoth database of hundreds of different sample observations from thousands of individuals, including biology, genetics, blood chemistry, etc. and analyze how it correlates to disease patterns. According to the Journal:
The study may, for instance, reveal a biomarker that helps some people break down fatty foods efficiently, helping them live a long time without high cholesterol and heart disease. Others may lack this trait and succumb to early heart attacks. Once Baseline has identified the biomarker, researchers could check if other people lack it and help them modify their behavior or develop a new treatment to help them break down fatty foods better…
How does this vary from attempts by others to study disease? Mainly deep pockets, entrepreneurial savvy and computing power, all characteristics at which Google undoubtedly excels.
So far, most biomarkers that have been discovered are related to late-stage diseases because studies usually focus on sick patients. Researchers have tried to use them to spot diseases earlier with mixed results…
Google is a ubiquitous presence on the web. When you want to read a favorite blog (hopefully this one), peruse a news website or look up a topic, Google typically finds it in less than a millisecond. Gone are the days when Internet users had a pull-down “favorites” menu of websites. My favorites list is Google. I only have to remember one website, Google. Google keeps track of all the rest for me. Google even tracks websites that I don’t yet realize I even need.
Have you ever began typing a search term into Google and had it auto-complete your search term even before you typed it? It’s simply amazing how so many people had the same thought that Google learned to complete your sentences. Google is able to predict flu outbreaks better than the CDC based on people around the country who have Googled flu symptoms. Physicians use Google to learn about disease and conditions. Blogger, David Williams wrote how Google may have the capacity predict you have cancer before your doctor tells you based on an algorithm that correlates search terms with diseases. Within websites, Google often serves up very selective advertising based on what you’re searching for.
If anyone has the capability to cut through the bureaucratic obstructions that characterizes academic medical research, I am betting on Google.