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Google’s Next Moonshot: Detecting Cancer With Nanoparticles

Google’s Next Moonshot: Detecting Cancer With Nanoparticles
[Photo: Flickr user Yale Rosen]

Google, ever fond of trying to solve seemingly impossible challenges, has its sights set on the company’s next moonshot: detecting cancer.

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Andrew Conrad, head of Google Life Sciences–a part of the search giant’s experimental wing, Google X–said the company is developing nanoparticles to monitor people’s health continuously over time. The nanoparticles, measuring less than one-thousandth of a red blood cell’s width, would attach to cells, proteins, and other molecules and pass through the body through the liver and bowels.

“It’s amazing how many sensors fit on a car,” he said. “Why not have that many sensors for something far more important than transportation?”

Conrad’s remarks at the WSJ.D conference come a day after Apple CEO Tim Cook, speaking at the same event, said it is unlikely his company would delve into cancer research, focusing its health efforts instead on consumer wearable devices that work with its mobile devices.

It will take more five years to deploy Google’s nanoparticles, but they could be delivered in pill form, Conrad said. He noted the search company will not collect or store medical data, and plans to license the technology to other parties, which will oversee security. Nanoparticle pills could come in multiple versions tailored to people with different health risks.

“Ultimately, death is our foe,” he said.

Fast Company‘s Harry McCracken is liveblogging the WSJ.D conference until Wednesday. Follow along here.

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