One plausible way to describe Google is as a high-tech university subsidized by search ads. There’s the wacky experiments, the employee cafeterias and coddling, and the appetite for hiring the smartest people in the world.
On that last point, the exemplar is its life sciences division. Launched two years ago with the hiring of esteemed cell biologist Andy Conrad, the research unit spun out of the Google X lab when Alphabet formed and rebranded last week to Verily. In the past year, it has bulked up an already impressive roster of medical experts, poaching top researchers from universities and government.
For the scientists, Google’s appeal is clear: It gives top-notch tech resources at their disposal, and an almost endless supporting budget. For Alphabet, the entrance into health fits its edict of applying tech to massive global problems. Also, health is a gargantuan market: U.S. spending is estimated to hit $3 trillion this year, more than a sixth of GDP. Verily is entering the market with a confluence of factors — the digitization of records and rapid advances in medical equipment, genetic engineering and machine intelligence — that make health care irresistible for the tech industry.