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Google hires former FDA digital health leader

Bakul Patel said he will ‘build a unified digital health and regulatory strategy’

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google hired a former Food and Drug Administration leader as its new senior director of global digital health strategy. Bakul Patel spent over a decade at the FDA and most recently was the chief digital health officer of global strategy and innovation.

“I am looking forward to learning from the teams in health across Google and Alphabet and helping build a unified digital health and regulatory strategy,” he wrote in a Linkedin post Monday announcing the move.

Like all big tech companies, Google has pushed further into health and healthcare over the past few years, with mixed results. Its ambitions range from mining big data for algorithms to developing disease-detecting tools to pumping wearables full of health features. But its strategy has gone through some upheaval: the company dissolved the Google Health division in August 2021 and spread its employees around to various initiatives. The head of the division left the company.

Patel is only the latest to enter the new revolving door between Alphabet and federal regulatory agencies. Current FDA Commissioner Robert Califf is a former Alphabet senior advisor. And Google’s chief health officer Karen DeSalvo is the former director of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.