Verily steps out of Google’s shadow, takes on funding from its first outside investor

January 27, 2017 – 8:16 AM | By Andrea Gonzalez | No comments yet

By Omar Ford, Staff Writer

Alphabet Inc.’s Verily Life Sciences LLC is set to receive $800 million in funding from Temasek, a Singapore-based investment company. A majority of the investment will be funded in the coming days, and the remainder will come in the second half of this year. In exchange for the funding, Temasek will receive a minority stake in the Mountain View, Calif.-based company, which was once Google’s life sciences division.

This will be the first time Verily has taken funding from an outside investor, said Carolyn Wang, a spokesperson for Verily. The company primarily derives its funding from licensing deals and its parent company Alphabet.

“We see this as less about a capital need and more about having another advisor working with us, as we start to set our sights on Asia,” Wang, told Medical Device Daily.

She noted that Asia represented 50 percent of the health care market and is an excellent opportunity for Verily. China represents Temasek’s largest country by underlying asset exposure after Singapore, making up 23 percent of its $180 billion portfolio. The investment firm established a San Francisco office late last year.

The path to Verily’s formation began two years ago when many of Google’s elements broke off into independent units. (See Medical Device Daily, Aug. 12, 2015.) Those units were set up to be run by Google’s holding company Alphabet. Shortly after that, Google’s life sciences unit was re-branded as Verily.

Currently, Verily is part of Alphabet’s Other Bets Bucket, the businesses that are separate from Google. Verily is one of three units within Other Bets Bucket that brings in revenue. For 3Q16, Other Bets revenue was $197 million, according to Alphabet’s earnings report.


Verily has been a part of a long string of partnerships in both the med-tech and pharmaceutical space. The company has projects that span from the development of a smart contact lens with Novartis AG, to forming Galvani Bioelectronics with Glaxosmithkline plc. Galvani Bioelectronics will focus on developing bioelectronic medicines.

Verily strengthened its focus on the diabetes market and entered into an agreement with Dexcom Inc. The pact would have Verily and the San Diego-based company developing smaller continuous glucose monitoring products that are more affordable to the patient.

While Verily has been involved with a lot of projects, it hasn’t been shy about sharing its progress. On Thursday, Verily gave an update on its Verb Surgical collaboration with New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson Corp.’s Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc. The surgical robotics company was created in 2015. (See Medical Device Daily, Dec. 11, 2015.) Verb demonstrated its first digital surgery prototype to both J&J and Ethicon executives.

The digital surgery platform prototype included all elements of the company’s five technology pillars – robotics, visualization, advanced instrumentation, data analytics and connectivity.

“Completing this prototype milestone was an achievement that we aimed for a year ago, and I’m excited to say we achieved it and are on track with our development schedule,” said Verb Surgical CEO Scott Huennekens.

One of Verily’s largest joint ventures to date is a $500 million collaboration with Paris-based Sanofi SA to launch Onduo, a Cambridge Mass.-based company focused on combining devices with services to tackle diabetes. (See Medical Device Daily, Sept. 13, 2016.) Sanofi has invested $248 million in Onduo, and will have a 50 percent stake in the joint venture.

“What we’re doing in diabetes is a really nice illustration of where we want to go in terms of our work on Ondou with Sanofi,” Wang said. “We want to look at other therapeutic areas that have a great need like [diabetes] where [Verily] can have an impact.”

The company has been working on several different projects for the life sciences space, which include breeding sterile mosquitoes to combat the Zika Virus and specialized spoons for Parkinson’s disease patients. Verily has even tried to develop a device that could mimic the fictional performance of the Tricorder from Star Trek – a hand-held device used for sensor scanning, data analysis and recording data.

Wang said that the company was not putting restraints on developing ideas.

“We have an internal cultural value here that questions convention,” she said. “We’re not afraid to go tackle some of the hairier projects and think of new ways of doing things.”



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