Google's ambitious research lab, Google X, is teaming up with the pharmaceutical company Biogen Idec to study the progression of multiple sclerosis and why it differs between patients. According to Bloomberg, the partnership is expected to last multiple years and will have Google analyzing data from people with the disease, which currently has no cure. The progression of MS can vary dramatically between patients, with some only experiencing temporary numbness and others experiencing paralysis. Google's interest lies in determining what leads to one progression over the other. Biogen Idec makes drugs that treat MS, and it's hoping to use the research to develop new treatments or determine which patients should receive which drugs.
Google X has been doing more and more with health care
Though Google hasn't traditionally been involved with the health care world, Google X began taking steps in that direction last year. About a year ago, it unveiled work on a "smart" contact lens that can measure glucose levels to help people with diabetes, which Bloomberg reports has since been licensed out to the health care company Novartis. Over the summer, the lab began trying to collect enough medical data to determine what the perfectly healthy human looks like. Then in September, Google bought the company behind an electronic utensil that intelligently compensates for Parkinson's tremors and folded its team into Google X.
Google X tells Bloomberg that it has no intention of becoming a pharmaceutical company, but there is interest in the lab becoming an important research partner to companies that are going after tough goals and want to do so with new approaches. Of course, that's still only part of what Google X does: the lab is also where Google's self-driving cars are built and where its internet hotspot balloons are being made. It's not evident how or if Google will ever hone its focus, but it's clear that Google X's medical ambitions are growing fast.