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Google is embarking on a new adventure that could radically change health care and medicine, but also add an interesting new twist to its own wearable computing initiatives: The company’s Head of Life Sciences Andrew Conrad announced at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ.D Live conference Tuesday that the company is building a nano particle platform that could one day be used to continuously measure a person’s health through ingestible nano particles.
Conrad, who is leading Google’s Life Sciences group out of the company’s experimental Google X R&D lab, said that people will be able to swallow a pill with nano particles that can then be trapped by a magnet, for example on a person’s wrist, and read out to detect cancer cells, blocked arteries or other symptoms that traditionally require blood tests or even more complicated procedures that are done much less frequently.
Conrad likened the way these nano particles travel through your body to “a self driving car for your body,” and said that the particles itself are very safe. Similar agents are already being used as markers during MRI tests, he explained. Particles would leave the human body “the old-fashioned way,” he said, resisting more obvious bathroom jokes.
Google wants to partner with others to make this nano platform commercially available. Conrad didn’t mention any potential partners by name, but said that Google would leave all the data capturing and the cooperation with doctors and health care providers to those partners. He said Google’s role would be more like GE, which also doesn’t own everyone’s MRI, but simply is behind the technology powering MRI machines.
Of course, there could be more immediate benefits for Google, which is building out a wearable platform, and coincidentally launched Google Fit on Tuesday. An Android-powered wearable device could theoretically be used to read out nano particles, but Conrad didn’t go into details how the platform could potentially intersect with the company’s other platforms and services. He did however say that he hopes that the technology will be available in years, not decades.