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Alphabet's Verily has hired top execs to bring its science research into hospitals and homes

  • Ashraf Hanna recently joined Verily as COO and Vivian Lee was hired as president of health platforms.
  • The company added a number of industry experts to its scientific advisory board.
  • Verily is pushing to get more initiatives out of the research lab and into hospitals.
Dr. Robert Califf
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Dr. Robert Califf

Verily, Alphabet's life sciences arm, has beefed up its advisory board and leadership team as it looks to move beyond research and development and into hospitals and clinics.

The company recently hired Ashraf Hanna, the former CEO of Oric Pharmaceuticals, as its chief operating officer, and brought on Vivian Lee, a radiologist and the former CEO of University of Utah Health, as president of health platforms.

Lee, who left the Utah health system over a controversy related to her firing of an executive, will focus on population health initiatives, furthering the company's interest in managing patient populations.

Verily is starting to more aggressively commercialize its range of services and products, many of which have been in development for more than five years. The company is looking to sell both to pharmaceutical companies and health systems, and is also working with regulators to secure approvals for its products.

New initiatives and a joint venture

"This is not a company with a lack of ambition," said Robert Califf, a former commissioner for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who joined the company as an adviser last May. "In health care, there's a lot to be done."

Verily, which became an independent subsidiary of Alphabet in 2015, has inked about a dozen partnerships with life sciences companies like Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi.

Some of Verily's initiatives, like its device to measure bloodusing a type of watch, are still in the research phase. But others are further along. In 2016, Verily partnered with Sanofi on a joint venture called Onduo, which is focused on diabetes management.

Verily has also beefed up its scientific advisory board, adding Linda Avey, the co-founder of 23andMe, as well as former Medicare chief Andy Slavitt, former national coordinator for Health Information Technology Karen DeSalvo, and Kathy Giusti, founder of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

"In the early days, we were very science-oriented so our advisory board spent much of their time reviewing science projects," said Califf. "But now, where we're headed is to delivery, the pragmatic real-world stuff, and we needed a different kind of board."

Both Slavitt and DeSalvo said they are specifically interested in helping Americans with significant medical and social challenges, and not just the healthy and wealthy.

"Technology brings great opportunity to reach hard to reach populations, such as those in rural America," DeSalvo said. It can help "close the disparity gaps."