Susanne Posel ,Chief Editor Occupy Corporatism | The US Independent
July 26, 2014
Andrew Conrad, molecular biologist and lead researcher for Google X has been behind the latest push by the tech corporation to get to know their users better – by collecting data on DNA in order to decipher what a healthy, normal human being should look like.
If Google X could analyze the DNA of enough participants, it is suspected that “prevention based treatment strategies” would allow for the possible removal of traits that cause those diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and neurological disorders.
As a side project, Google Ventures has invested $161 million into 23andMe, a home genetics test that identifies mutations in the genome that can be removed if desired.
The sample taken from the saliva would be run through a gene chip provided by Illumina for deciphering of genetic ancestry and information on genetic risks, propensities and “mutations” that could lead to disease during the individual’s lifetime.
According to the patent: “What eye colors their child might have or if their child will be able to perceive bitter taste or be lactose intolerant.”
Indeed, the clients can peruse a “shopping list” of genetic traits that can be enhanced or suppressed such as:
• Muscle development
• Athletic abilities
• Personality traits
• Development of cancer and other diseases
• Extended life span
Anne Wojcicki, former wife of Google founder Sergey Brin, said: “You could say whether you want a kid with blue eyes or green eyes, a long lifespan, or less risk of colorectal cancer. Or more risk of colorectal cancer, if that’s what you’re into. The system then runs the database of your genes against others, to recommend a mating match that would be likely to produce a child with said traits.”
Google X has been developing animal-inspired robots, self-driving cars and even “smart” contact lenses.
Conrad explained : “With any complex system, the notion has always been there to proactively address problems. 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.”
The Google Baseline Study project (BSP) is a ginormous genetic and molecular collection of “anonymous” from 175 participants. It is hoped that this number will grow to help create “the fullest picture of what a healthy human being should be.”
Conrad’s team consists of 70 to 100 biologists, biochemists and experts in imaging, physiology and molecular biology in order to increase our understanding of disease in the human body.
Conrad said: “The study may, for instance, reveal a biomarker that helps some people break down fatty foods efficiently, helping them live a long time without high cholesterol and heart disease. Others may lack this trait and succumb to early heart attacks. Once Baseline has identified the biomarker, researchers could check if other people lack it and help them modify their behavior or develop a new treatment to help them break down fatty foods better.”
Duke University (DU) and Stanford University (SU) and other academia are collaborating with Google X to identify “molecular and genetic markers to compare with corresponding medical records.”
Earlier this month, Alcon, the eye care company for the Swedish pharmaceutical Novartis, obtained licensed technology for a “smart lens” from Google X.
The two corporations are focused on assisting diabetics with a smart lens that will “measure the tear fluid in the eye and track the glucose levels in the patient.
Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, founder of the smart lens project for Google X, explained: “We’re now testing a smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material. We’re testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second.”
Google X said: “It’s still early days for this technology, but we’ve completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype. We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease.”
The lens is bordered with sensors and microchips that could attempt to correct vision problems for patients with presbyopia via an autofocus capability.
Research for this device began several years ago with the University of Washington (UoW) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) who invested funding.
Beta-testing of the lens was conducted on volunteers in in the San Francisco Bay area.
Concerning US regulators, Google said: “We’ve completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype … We’re in discussions with the FDA, but there’s still a lot more work to do to turn this technology into a system that people can use.”