Google Announces New Diabetes Partnership With Sanofi


Just three weeks after spinning its Life Sciences division out from X Labs and into its own stand-alone business (clever new name TBD, according to Google), the company announces that it has signed a new research and development agreement with French pharmaceutical company Sanofi. Sanofi is the fifth largest pharmaceutical company in the world, and makes a healthy portion of its revenue from Lantus, the world’s best-selling insulin. In the new partnership, the pair will team up to design Web-enabled glucometers and insulin pens, and an interface suite designed to push real-time data from the devices to physicians and population health program coordinators who can help patients manage their conditions.

The new partnership follows several years of diabetes-focused projects for the former X labs team, but marks Google’s first public acknowledgement that diabetes would be the initial focus of its life sciences company’s efforts. Former X Labs Life Sciences Director and now CEO of the new business unit, Andrew Conrad, explains, “Diabetics are far more likely to have heart attacks, they’re far more likely to have cancer, and they’re 15 times more likely to have their foot cut off because of vascular issues. If we could prevent strong and profound fluctuations in the levels of blood sugar, we could prevent most of the problems associated with diabetes.”

Google’s approach to improving global diabetes management thus far has been focused on glucose-monitoring. In 2014, the former X Labs team unveiled a continuous glucose monitor that it had miniaturized and embedded into a contact lens. The lens reads glucose levels once per second. If results trend outside an acceptable range, a red LED indicator embedded in the lens will warn the wearer. An antenna the size of a human hair will also transmit glucose readings from the lenses to a paired smart phone. In June 2014, Google signed a partnership with Novartis to bring the device to market.

In 2015, Google returned to the table to improve glucose-monitoring, this time partnering with DexCom. In this project, Google will work to develop a glucose monitor that is cheap enough to be disposable, as small as a typical bandage, and minimally invasive enough to be applied at home. By developing both glucose monitoring contact lenses and glucose-monitoring bandages, Google is betting heavily that in the future all diabetics will want access to real-time data about glucose levels.

Now, Google is shifting its focus from monitoring to controlling blood sugar levels. In its newest project, Google will develop Bluetooth-enabled insulin pens that close the loop on medication adherence by plotting how much insulin a patient is giving themselves, and when. Google hopes to present patients and physicians with a real-time picture of a patient’s medication adherence patterns, and its impact on glucose levels. “That’s the system that we’re endeavoring to build – smart insulin delivery devices, smart measurement devices, and an interface and an integrating platform that helps physicians and patients see how they’re doing,” reiterates Conrad.

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