Google sister-company Verily has set up a space on its campus for health tech start-ups

Key Points
  • Verily is opening up a "partner" space for promising health start-ups.
  • It took an equity investment in the first two companies admitted to its space.
  • These start-ups can access lab space, office space, talent and other resources.

Alphabet's Verily wants to be at the center of the medical start-up ecosystem, both literally and figuratively.

The company, formerly known as Google Life Sciences, is now offering entrepreneurs access to its South San Francisco-based lab space, office space, talent and other resources in exchange for equity or cash.

"We want to have cutting-edge tech companies working in health care proximate to us," said Verily's business development lead Andrew Harrison.

CNBC first reported on a partner start-up moving onto the Verily campus in July, but the full details were not yet public.

Alphabet has many vehicles for investing in start-ups, including GV, which invests in early-stage companies, and CapitalG, which is focused on later-stage companies.

But lately, it has been specializing more. Most recently, it launched Gradient Ventures earlier this year to fund early-stage artificial intelligence companies and bolster access to Google's engineering talent.

Verily's model is tailored to the medical sector, which represents about a fifth of the economy. Alphabet, alongside Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, are all looking to slice out a piece of this $3 trillion health care pie.

Partner space

In an interview, Harrison described the Verily model as a "partner space."

It takes a page from existing models such as start-up accelerators and co-working lab spaces but with a few key differences. Unlike many of these programs, Verily might invest but it doesn't need to. It can rent out the space instead.

In either case, according to Harrison, it will do a "venture-like review" on any medical start-ups that apply.

Verily has space for about 5 to 10 start-ups at any given time, he said.

Two of these spots have already been filled by Culture Robotics, a biotech tools start-up, and Freenome, a diagnostics company working on an early-stage cancer test. Verily made an equity investment in both companies.

Culture Robotics' Will Patrick chose to join the partner space to work in close proximity to Verily's team of scientists and engineers. It also proved to be an affordable option for the start-up given the Bay Area's astronomical rent prices.

"As a small company, being part of the partner space helps us get off the ground more quickly," he said.

Harrison is hoping to work with companies that are in a complementary space, which gives Verily a fairly wide remit to invest across the bio-tech and digital health ecosystem.

The company's dozen or so projects include a glucose-tracking contact lens and assistive tools for people with impaired movement. Its current partners include some of the world's largest pharma and medical device companies, ranging from Dexcom to Sanofi.