Google gives ex-FDA digital health head Bakul Patel strategic role

FDA veteran Bakul Patel has joined Google as its new senior director of global digital health strategy, ending a stint at the regulator that lasted more than 13 years.

Bakul Patel

Patel – who is currently director for digital health at the FDA – said on social media that he is “looking forward to learning from the teams in health across Google and Alphabet and helping build a unified digital health and regulatory strategy.”

He was also involved in the creation of the FDA’s Digital Health Center of Excellence in 2020 and drawing up the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) 2022-2025 strategic priorities, which covers much of the agency’s digital health plans.

That included the use of artificial intelligence algorithms in software as a medical device (SaaMD) products, a precertification pilot programme for software, and guidance on wireless medical devices and cybersecurity.

Patel announced his move to Google in a LinkedIn post, in which he said that whilst at the FDA his “biggest northstar” has been to make digital healthcare accessible and equitable for everyone.

“Google’s commitment to help billions of people be healthier aligns with my goal to move digital healthcare and technology forward together,” wrote Patel in the post.

“This means building upon the work Google has already done in health—from providing authoritative COVID-19 information during the pandemic, to using AI and machine learning to build and provide solutions for caregivers and communities to tackle the world’s toughest health challenges.”

For Google, the appointment of another senior FDA staffer is a further sign of its ambitions in healthcare, which have been advancing on a broad front in recent years with work on wearables, use of artificial intelligence to detect disease and discover new drugs, and electronic health record (HER) tools.

Current FDA Commissioner Robert Califf spent some time as an advisor to Google parent Alphabet after his earlier stint at the head of the regulator.

Patel joins the company as it its health initiatives are in flux. Last year, Google dismantled its three-year-old health unit and spread its various projects around other parts of the company.

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