Pill-Popping Tech is Google’s Next Big Play in Aging Health Care

A pill and wearable device combo that can detect serious health issues like cancer or heart attacks is Google’s (Nasdaq: GOOG) next big thing for the health care technology space.

Known as the “Nanoparticle Platform,” Google is developing a new technology in the form of a pill and wearable device pair, that when in effect, could identify certain health conditions within a person’s body, said Andrew Conrad, head of life sciences for the company’s Google X research lab, during the Wall Street Journal Digital conference in Laguna Beach, Calif. on Tuesday, according to various reports.

To make it work, Google is fashioning nanoparticles that combine a magnetic material with antibodies or proteins that can attach to and detect other molecules inside the body, reported Wired.

The central idea is that patients will swallow a pill containing these particles, which would then enter their bloodstream and attempt to identify molecules that would indicate certain health issues. A wearable device working in conjunction with the technology could then use the nanoparticles’ magnetic cores to gather them back together and read what they found.

The pill takes it to the next level of what makers of digital pills have set out to do by breaking the technology down to the nano level—a scale that is about one billionth of a meter in width.

“Because the core of these particles is magnetic, you can call them somewhere,” Conrad said in the Wired report. “These little particles go out and mingle with the people, we call them back to one place, and we ask them: ‘Hey, what did you see? Did you find cancer? Did you see something that looks like a fragile plaque for a heart attack? Did you see too much sodium?’”

The Nanoparticle Platform is part of Google’s wider effort to develop new technologies for the health care and aging sectors.

In recent years, it’s clandestine Google X laboratory department has leaked details of several not-so-secret projects such as driverless cars, the Internet-enabled Google Glass eyewear, smart contact lenses that detect glucose levels for diabetics and utensils to help manage hand tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease.

Tasked with finding clever solutions to big problems, health care has inevitably been one of the areas of focus for Google X.

“The way in which we envision doing this is inverting the paradigm in medicine—which is currently reactive and episodic—to a new paradigm that is proactive and cumulative,” Conrad said in the Wired report.

This isn’t Google’s first foray into drug development. Last month, the company announced that its life sciences arm focused on aging health care solutions, Calico, is partnering with Chicago-based global pharmaceutical company AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV) to develop a $1.5 billion aging research center in the San Francisco Bay area.

Through the collaboration, the two companies will work together to research and develop new technologies over a 10-year period with a focus including, but not limited to, drug discovery and early drug development.

Though the Nanoparticle Platform is still in its exploratory stage, it remains unclear how far Google is into its development, however, the company did say it is actively seeking partners on the project.

Written by Jason Oliva

Jason Oliva

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