Breaking New Health Ground With Project Baseline
How much more fruitful would our lives be if we could find a way to predict, and therefore prevent, disease?
That was the topic explored by chief medical officer of Verily Sciences, an Alphabet company, Jessica, L. Mega, MD, who presented to a group of 300 — representing the entire medtech ecosystem, including physicians, entrepreneurs, students and professors — at the 19th annual Thomas J. Fogarty, MD, Lecture sponsored by the Fogarty Institute and our partner, Stanford Biodesign.
Dr. Mega’s lecture, titled “Surfacing Human Signals – The Convergence of Engineering and Health,” left attendees with an inspirational message that provided a glimpse into the state of engineering and health, as she shared details of Verily’s quest to create meaningful tools that will lead to earlier disease detection and ultimately help people lead healthier lives via Project Baseline.
This initiative was launched in April 2017 with the goal of creating a comprehensive “human map,” as a multi-dimensional baseline that will provide a clearer understanding of patients’ health. The intent of the study is to uncover new information about health and disease by analyzing how genes, lifestyle and other factors influence health and determine individuals’ “normal” measures of health, which can be used to identify warning signs or predict future onset of disease. The first step is collecting information from a diverse group of people across the country and then monitoring how their health changes over time. The ambitious four-year study is already well underway, with thousands of people of different ages and backgrounds from all 50 states volunteering to participate. The goal is to enroll 10,000 patients.
The company partnered with Stanford University and Duke University to create the “gold standard” in data, tools and technologies that can be used to research the next generation of “signals” and aim to proactively prevent diseases.
“The challenge lies in discovering how to engage people in their own health and determine what might get them excited about their well-being, as everyone is going to be motivated differently,” said Dr. Mega. “We then need to surface these insights, determine what is meaningful, build the infrastructure and determine which platform is needed to integrate all the information.”
While Dr. Mega acknowledges that there is currently a lot of hype about artificial intelligence in healthcare, there is also deep value. In her view, using deep-learning algorithms to analyze and read the data and surface relevant information, could prove to be an invaluable tool for physicians and the healthcare system.
“The convergence of engineering and clinical medicine is where I see the future,” said Dr. Mega. “What gets me going in the morning is determining what problem we can solve today and which signals we need to act on now. But let’s keep our feet on the ground while simultaneously putting our head in the sky because there are still people suffering from disease, and it is our obligation to create and deploy the right tools that will allow them to live healthier lives.”
About Jessica Mega, MD
As CMO, Jessica Mega, MD, leads the company’s healthcare team, which informs and studies Verily’s products, creates health platforms and translates them into systems that improve outcomes. A cardiologist, faculty member at Harvard Medical School (on leave), senior investigator with TIMI Study Group, a recipient of numerous awards and honors, author of multiple peer-reviewed publications and sought-after lecturer, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the healthcare field.
About the series
The lecture series, sponsored by the Fogarty Institute and Stanford Biodesign, was established to discuss, debate and promote medical innovation and entrepreneurship.
The forum also provides an opportunity to look back and celebrate the remarkable progress of biomedical advances, thanks in large part to an increasingly robust innovation ecosystem, strong partnerships, including the one we enjoy with Stanford Biodesign, and from passionate and innovative inventors such as Dr. Fogarty, whose countless contributions helped shape our industry and inspire future generations of inventors.