ORLANDO, Fla.— Alphabet Inc.’s Google Life Sciences unit and the American Heart Association announced a five-year, $50 million collaboration intended to bring new approaches to research into the causes, treatment and prevention of heart disease.
Each party will contribute $25 million to the initiative, which will support research by the work of a single team drawn from a variety disciplines across medicine, engineering and technology. A leadership group composed of members from both sides plans to select a person to head the effort early next year.
The agreement, announced Sunday at the AHA’s annual scientific meeting, represents Google’s latest foray into life-sciences research. Among other moves: last year’s launch of what it calls a baseline study, an effort to collect data on individuals’ genetic and physical traits to come up with a description of a healthy human being.
Andrew Conrad, a molecular biologist and chief executive officer of Google Life Sciences, said the company’s expertise in sensors, data analytics and machine-based learning are among strengths it brings to the task of breaking new ground against cardiovascular disease. “This is the No. 1 killer in the world, and we should shake it up a bit,” he said.
The shrinking costs of genetic sequencing and advances in fields such as computer science are prompting researchers to forge collaborations across scientific disciplines to tackle big challenges in medicine, such as fighting cancer and other diseases.
“We live in an era today with resources that haven’t been available until now,” said Nancy Brown, the heart association’s CEO. Such an initiative with Google wouldn’t have been possible just a couple of years ago.
Leaders of the effort acknowledged big challenges, but said they hope a concerted multidisicplinary effort with long-term funding will result in progress that goes beyond the incremental advances characteristic of more conventional research. The effort will attempt to identify new drivers of heart disease as well as strategies to address and potentially reverse the development of coronary artery disease or to prevent its development, officials said.
By RON WINSLOW
Updated Nov. 8, 2015