In 2014, Google Ventures Quadrupled Its Investments In Life Sciences and Healthcare

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Google Ventures, the investment arm of Google, had $425 million in VC funding to distribute in 2014, up from the $300 million it invested in 2013 and 2012. Because Google is, well, Google, the technology industry pays particular attention to where it invests its money and this year Google bet big on digital health. It’s one of many signs that Google is going all in on life sciences, despite founder Sergey Brin’s now famous assessment that “Health is just so heavily regulated, it’s just a painful business to be in.”

To provide some context, in both 2012 and 2013 Google invested 9 percent of its available funds on health and life sciences startups. During those years, commerce startups and consumer apps were Google’s primary target. For example, in 2013, Google invested $258 million in Uber, its largest deal to date. In 2014, Google’s investment portfolio was flipped on its head, with massive investments in digital health, and only small investments in commerce and consumer apps. Google funneled 36 percent of its 2014 investment fund into digital health companies, accounting for around $150 million of its total investments.

The big winner in the digital health space for 2014 is Flatiron Health, a big data oncology platform started by two ex-Google employees with no healthcare experience but the confidence of some very influential members of Google’s digital health elite, including Andrew Conrad, a cell biologist that now leads the development efforts of Google X’s medical initiatives. Flatiron closed a $130 million Series B round in May 2014 to fund the growth of its platform. Flatiron captures treatment plan and outcomes data from oncologists, analyzes the data, and then pushes patient-specific recommendations to oncologists, within their own EHRs, as they coordinate care for patients.

Outside of Google Ventures, Google is going just as big on life sciences. The company announced several major health-related initiatives this year. The company unveiled its glucose monitoring contact lenses and announced that the technology was being licensed to Novartis for commercialization within the next two years. Shortly after, Google unveiled Google Genomics, a business unit that offers cloud-based genome data storage to researchers. This year, Google also acknowledged that its next Google X project is a smartpill filled with nano-particles programmed to enter the blood stream and search for early-stage cancer tumors, which the company expects will be ready for commercialization within five years. Google also recently announced Calico, its moonshot project aimed at extending human life – perhaps indefinitely.

Google, the world’s most popular search engine, is looking less and less likes a search engine and more and more like a life sciences company.


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