Google’s latest moonshot project is an ambitious one, with the search giant looking to discover and catalogue the genetics behind the healthy human.
A project which, in the future, could ultimately help doctors detect cancers and genetic disorders far earlier than currently possible – increasing survival rates as a result – the study is looking to build the most substantial picture of the healthy human yet.
Falling under the control of Google X – the company’s forward-thinking research team – the project has been dubbed Baseline Study and is being headed up by molecular biologist Dr Andrew Conrad.
With Dr. Conrad, who joined Google X in March 2013 and previously developed cheap, accessible HIV tests, backed up by 70 to 100 biochemist, biologist, physiology and optics experts, the first phase of the study will see Google collect genetic and molecular information from 175 anonymous, healthy volunteers.
In order to generate a substantial base standard for the healthy human, the project will look gain data from thousands more volunteers moving forward.
“With any complex system, the notion has always been there to proactively address problems," Dr. Conrad said discussing the Baseline Study.
"That's not revolutionary. We are just asking the question: If we really wanted to be proactive, what would we need to know? You need to know what the fixed, well-running thing should look like."
Having collected data from thousands of subjects, Google will then use its near unrivalled computing power to look for “biomarker” patterns in the genetic data.
It is hoped that this data will then be able to be used to allow medical researches to detect diseases in patients earlier than ever before.
Given the unfathomable scale of mapping the human system, discovering biomarkers and flagging every tiny abnormality, the Baseline Project is not expected to generate substantial results from anytime soon.
Instead, Dr. Conrad, has expressed hope to make advancements in “little increments.”
Dr. Sam Gambhir, Chair of Stanford University’s Department of Radiology and Baseline researcher stated: "He [Conrad] gets that this is not a software project that will be done in one or two years.
"We used to talk about curing cancer and doing this in a few years. We've learned to not say those things anymore."
Given Google’s success in letting us access funny cat videos through YouTube, find smutty websites through its search engine and enjoy Candy Crush on the move with our Android handsets, the Baseline Project offers a new perspective on the technologies being developed out in Mountain View.
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