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After almost six years and billions of dollars, Google med-tech spinoff Verily is still a scattershot jumble of moonshots

5 2 7
23.03.2021

A year ago, as the United States confronted the first global pandemic in a century, Donald Trump assured a panicked nation that help was on the way. It was coming, he said, from Google, which planned to provide a digital platform to conduct Covid-19 testing. This came as a surprise to Google as well as to Verily Life Sciences, the Google-affiliated entity that had in fact told the White House it conceivably could pull off such a project.

That Trump didn't know the difference between Google and Verily, or that no such initiative had yet begun, is more telling than merely as an early example of the misinformation and plain-old made-up stuff Trump would go on to spew from the Presidential lectern. A year later Verily isn't much better known or understood, either to the general public or even the medical industry it purports to be revolutionizing. (It did, however, go on to build a well-received multi-state Covid testing operation.)

With this anniversary in mind, I have spent the last week or so trying to understand what exactly Verily is. What emerges is a picture of a secretive, exceedingly well-funded collection of medical-related science projects without a cohesive business to speak of.

That's not to say the company has no commercial prospects. In fact, having raised a total of $2.5 billion from the likes of tech buyout firm Silver Lake, Singapore's Temasek, and Google parent Alphabet itself, Verily has been able to invest in its five-plus years in existence in multiple potential opportunities, from a virtual diabetes clinic to cutting-edge medical devices to, most recently, a joint venture in a lucrative corner of the corporate insurance market. Less commercially, it also raises millions of genetically modified mosquitoes as part of an experiment to engineer away mosquito-borne diseases.

Yet in part because of its hush-hush ways and also the unresolved question of where it does and doesn't........

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