Google Invests in Startups That Use Data to Disrupt Medicine

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Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) has built a reputation on innovation, and as one of the most valuable companies in the world, it brings its own vision of the future to the process of investing in startups and small companies. Recently, the company has made headlines for investing heavily in health startups. Re/code spoke to Bill Maris, someone who is involved in the decision-making process at Google Ventures. As a managing partner at Google Ventures, Google’s investment arm, Maris describes his job as “kind of a judge at a science fair,” according to the publication. Maris is in part responsible for the investments that the company has made in a wide range of health startups like 23andMe, Adimab, DNANexus, Doctor on Demand, Foundation Medicine, Flatiron Health, iPierian, One Medical Group, Predilytics, Rani Therapeutics, SynapDX, and Transcriptic.

Google’s investments focus on companies with a vision for applying advances in computer science — such as big data, cloud processing, and genomic sequencing — to improve diagnostics and health treatments. A smaller assortment of the startups that it’s helped to fund — 23andMe, DNA Nexus, Foundation Medicine, Flatiron Health — highlights Google’s focus on the potential for data to transform the business and practice of medicine. Maris told Re/code that Google’s focus on these startups stems from the company’s familiarity with the space and an understanding of where it’s going: “What we try to put into our practice is ‘invest in what we know,’ which is where health care meets technology. In some sense, almost all companies these days need to be big data companies.”

Here’s some context on what a few of Google’s investments are working on. 23andMe is a genetic testing startup that aims to “democratize genetic information,” co-founder Anne Wojcicki told SFGate. DNA Nexus provides cloud-based infrastructure to analyze and manage data on DNA. Foundation Medicine uses genetic sequencing to identify individualized treatments for cancer patients based on specific mutations. Flatiron Health connects doctors and cancer centers to share anonymized data via a cloud-based platform. Flatiron co-founder Nat Turner told The Wall Street Journal last week that the company got cancer centers to sign on by sharing the philosophy behind the software: “Give us your data, and our platform will make it valuable.”