Google Ventures increases healthcare investment

Google’s venture capital division has embarked on a push into healthcare as it follows the lead of its parent company.

The fund has directed more than a third of its investments in 2014 to life sciences and health projects, ahead of both mobile (27 per cent) and enterprise and data (24 per cent) ventures and a hefty increase on the 9 per cent invested in this area in 2013 and 6 per cent in 2012.

It has also turned its attention to Europe for the first time this year, with $125m directed at ventures across the Atlantic.

Among the healthcare companies invested in during the year was Flatiron, a data company whose software is used to support treatment for around one in five cancer patients on active therapy in the US.

Others include SynapDx, which is developing a blood test for the early detection of Autism in children, cloud-based genome data specialist DNA Nexus and telemedicine specialist One Medical which according to Google Ventures “saved members five million minutes in 2014 by starting appointments on time.”

All told, the fund has invested in more than a dozen healthcare companies to date, including Alzheimer’s disease therapy developer iPierian, which was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in a $725m deal announced back in April.

Google Ventures’ rising interest in healthcare matches Google itself, which has announced a series of projects in recent months including the creation of drug development company Calico – already partnering with AbbVie – that has the ambitious target of developing new therapies for longevity and diseases of ageing.

Google has also licensed its ‘smart’ contact lens drug delivery system to Novartis’ Alcon subsidiary, after revealing earlier this year it was testing the technology to see if it can measure diabetics’ glucose levels via their tears and communicate the readings wirelessly to a mobile device.

Most ambitiously, the technology giant recently released intriguing but sketchy details of a pill – based on magnetic nanoparticles laden with antibodies – that could be used to diagnose disease in its earliest stages.

More generally, Google has made a big play in the fitness category with the launch of its Google Fit platform and Android Wear line of wearable devices.

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