Google health care startup reported to be planning Dayton initiative

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Three things to know about Verily.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A health care startup affiliated with Google is meeting with top local officials about a mental health and drug treatment pilot program in Dayton.

Sources confirmed that Verily Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is working on the project with local officials. Details about the initiative were not given.

Verily spokeswoman Kathleen Parkes said “we do not comment on rumors or speculation.”

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Verily is a health data startup based out of San Francisco that, while only three years old, comes with the muscle of tech conglomerate Alphabet.

While more information was not available on what drew Verily to Dayton, the area has repeatedly been in the national spotlight for drug addiction issues as the opioid overdose crisis contributed to 566 accidental overdose deaths in Montgomery County last year.

As the crisis grew last year, Dayton was dubbed by some media as the overdose capital of the nation. While the numbers didn’t entirely support the title — and while the final opioid death toll for 2017 wasn’t as high as first forecast — the region has remained challenged by the opioid crisis.

The public health crisis has meant more families in turmoil, a depleted workforce and strained first responders.

Preliminary data shows there have been 202 accidental overdose deaths recorded this year in the county.

Officials credit increased distribution of naloxone, law enforcement efforts to stop the fentanyl supply, and grassroots efforts to connect people with addiction treatment as all helping curb the number of deaths.

Leaders with the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association and the Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services did not return a request for comment. A Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County spokesman said the department didn’t have any information.

Some of Verily’s other projects include developing health platforms and population health tools, including risk-prediction models for chronic disease management, software tools for quality performance data and diabetes management software.

MORE: Can Dayton go from ‘overdose capital’ to a model for recovery?

Verily states online that it is also working on health interventions like helping people with tremors or stopping the spread of disease carrying mosquitoes. Additionally, it’s making sensors like a watch to collect data for clinical studies and a “smart lens” for uses like vision correction and glucose sensing.

Besides Google’s parent, the big U.S. tech companies from Apple to Amazon have been venturing into health tech in recent years.

Drew Cook, project and content manager with BioOhio, a trade group for bioscience companies in the state, said the big tech companies are seeing health care initiatives as both profitable ventures and socially responsible ventures that can respond to the country’s pressing needs.

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“We’re at a crisis in health care delivery, management, payability. Everything is in a ‘fix it or lose it’ moment,” Cook said.

There’s also an established and growing bioscience infrastructure in Ohio, which is attractive to prospective companies, Cook said. Ohio bioscience companies — ranging from medical devices, to pharmaceuticals to research — attracted over $2.7 billion in funding in 2017, from sources including venture capital, exits, angel investment, federal research grants, and state initiatives such as the Ohio Third Frontier.

“It’s an amazing ecosystem for lifescience innovation and I think the message is getting out,” Cook said.