Google and American Heart Association align to take on heart disease

The partnership aims to identify people who are at risk and treat them before a health event happens
By Jack McCarthy
10:17 AM
Hand with heart

The American Heart Association (AHA) and Google Life Sciences teamed up to announce a five-year, $50 million joint research project that aims to develop new treatments and ways to prevent coronary heart disease.

The organizations will invest the funds over five years to develop a team of specialists from a variety of fields with the goal of understanding, reversing and preventing the disease.

The initiative is aiming high, seeking to find breakthroughs at fighting a pervasive disease. Cardiovascular diseases claim about 17.5 million lives per year. Coronary heart disease -- the focus of this effort -- is among the most brutal, accounting for 7 million of those deaths.

"We intend to really change the way cardiovascular research is conducted," AHA CEO Nancy Brown said.

Joseph Loscalzo, MD, physician-in-chief at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Hersey Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Harvard Medical School add that the organizations are "really trying to make this an aspirational goal, knowing full well that we are not likely to get there all the way, but we hope that we'll get there much further along the way than if we conducted business as usual."

Next year a joint leadership group will appoint the initiative's head, who will be tasked with putting together an overall plan, which includes assembling a team of researchers, engineers, scientists and other specialists.

"While this is an AHA-Google Life Sciences collaboration, we're really here to support (the team leader's) vision," said Jessica Mega, chief science officer of Google Life Sciences. "It's really betting on someone to try to make a difference and to give them all of the support that they need."

The project will look to technology to help advance its mission and will draw on the expertise of Google Life Sciences.

Google Life Sciences is the arm of Alphabet, the Google company that among other things is developing new healthcare technologies. Andy Conrad, Google Life Sciences CEO, said the project is "a massive undertaking (that) will jumpstart a cross-pollination of technology and science."

The partnership, he said, "may help identify people who are at risk and get them the right treatment before something devastating happens."