Google X Launches Data Collection App In Preparation For Its Baseline Study

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In July 2014, Google announced that the next health-focused project its X labs team would work on would be an initiative called the Baseline study. Working in collaboration with Duke University and Stanford University, Google’s X lab team set out to capture the most comprehensive dataset ever collected from a small population of healthy adults. The goal of the study is to quantify, with as much precision as possible, a picture of perfect human health.

To this end, the team recruited 175 subjects that agreed to submit to frequent exams; regular lab work analyzing urine, blood, saliva, and tears; and a complete sequencing of their DNA. The participants were also asked to wear Google’s glucose monitoring contact lenses and an activity tracker for the duration of the data collection period. Combined with results from various other medical tests, the resulting dataset provides researchers with a tool that they will eventually use to look for early signs of disease.  As the cohort ages and their health declines, the baseline dataset will provide researchers with a detailed picture of the onset of each disease. They will then use the dataset to research early-stage disease progress, uncover new early warning signs, and develop new early-stage disease treatments. The project is being run by renowned molecular biologist and Google X Labs project manager, Andrew Conrad who explains, “This research could give us clues about how the human body stays healthy or becomes sick, which could in turn unlock insights into how diseases could be better detected or treated.”

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Now, Google X has launched a new app designed to help its participants log and report day-t0-day metrics as they go through the Baseline Study. With features remarkably similar to Apple’s ResearchKit project, Google’s own “Study Kit” app provides researchers with a way of remotely monitoring a disperse research population, while continuing to capture important health metrics. For now, the app is only available to its Baseline Study participants. Google explains, “We are in the early stages of designing the Baseline Study and are exploring ways to make it easy for participants to share their health information and habits with researchers on a routine basis. An app is one route we’re considering and some of our pilot participants are testing this early version.”

Google has not suggested that it might open the Baseline Study up to wider public participation, nor has it suggested that it might graduate Study Kit out of X Labs to operate as an Android-equivalent of ResearchKit, but both possibilities have been widely speculated about in tech news this week, and if Google chooses to do so, there would undoubtedly be a receptive market in the scientific community.


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