Digital health news update: Verily’s big data bonanza Baseline

Verily’s Study Watch

  • Verily announced plans for a massive new study, dubbed Project Baseline, which aims to uncover disease risk factors by tracking the health of 10,000 individuals over four years using a purpose-built watch and other sensors, an online portal and periodic in-person workups. The project partners Verily with the medical schools of Duke and Stanford, which will handle enrollment and collection of data (which will be hosted on the Google Cloud, naturally). Some are already raising privacy concernsabout the massive volumes of data the project will vacuum up. If you want to participate, you can sign up at the project’s website.
  • About that Study Watch, which was, contra the Apple Watch, built for function over form: in addition to heart rate and movement, it includes an electrocardiogram and can give researchers some insight into sympathetic nervous system activity thanks to electrodermal activity monitoring features. Over at Forbes, David Shaywitz says “the capture and integration of phenotypic data at scare is the Holy Grail for today’s medical scientists.”
  • Meanwhile, Apple reportedly has a small team working on a top-secret (well, it was) next-generation noninvasive blood glucose sensor that may involve the use of optical sensors and shining a light through the skin to reveal glucose indicators.
  • Speaking of skin, with deductibles skyrocketing, US consumers have plenty of skin in the game, as the health econ types like to say. So is it turning them into super-consumers? Well, no, partly because of the opacity of the system when it comes to costs, but some say there’s a lot more they could be doing to control costs.
  • Anthem appears to be dumping ExpressScripts over allegations that the PBM overcharged them for prescription drugs. It’s the latest knock on PBMs, which have faced withering scrutiny from policymakers, financial analysts and insurers alike in recent months.
  • Qualcomm’s $2.6 million top Tricorder X prize has gone to a team led by an ER doc in what the Washington Post called “a Basil and Goliath story,” besting a much better-staffed and resourced team from Harvard. Their device, dubbed DxTER, uses a battery of sensors and an AI component, matching the resulting data against extant patient data to produce a diagnosis.
  • In personalized medicine news, progress toward a liquid biopsy promises to help catch cancers at an earlier and more treatable stage and to tell oncologists which patients will benefit from which treatment.



  • Klick Labs has developed a wearable armband, dubbed SymPulse, that can “play back” Parkinson’s tremors through electrodes, giving the wearer some first-hand experience of what Parkinson’s patients experience.
  • GSK’s Excedrin team has won tons of accolades with their VR migraine simulator, but Allergan isn’t letting them have all the fun in the category. They’ve launched a social media campaign, dubbed Frames of Mind, that invites sufferers to submit artwork depicting their experiences with migraines. The migraine market is getting cozy – in addition to an indication for chronic migraines on Botox, Allergan has several other migraine treatments in the pipeline. Amgen and Novartis are among a number of pharmas readying migraine treatment candidates, too.
  • Teva is targeting European physicians and consumers with a social media asthma awareness campaign which includes, on the physician side, a livestream of a KOL lecture on inhalers.
  • How a contact lens retailer used programmatic advertising to glean valuable insight into their customers’ paths to purchase. Much of the value of programmatic lies not in targeting but in allowing advertisers to better understand and anticipate customer behavior.
  • Quintiles IMS-Salesforce deal aims to create “a virtual one-stop data shop, accessible by smartphone, to allow drug-company officials to monitor the progress of drug-development and sales and to aid in decision-making.”