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Over the past year, technology titans including Google, Apple, Microsoft and IBM have been hiring leaders in biomedical research to bolster their efforts to change medicine.

 

In September 2015, Tom Insel announced that he would quit his position as head of the US National Institute of Mental Health to join Google Life Sciences (now Verily). Three months later, Michael McConnell took a leave of absence from directing major cardiovascular research programmes at California’s Stanford University to join him. And last month, Stephen Friend took a senior position with Apple. He is co-founder and former president of Sage Bionetworks, a non-profit organization that promotes open science and patient engagement in research (where one of us, J.T.W, works).

 

In many ways, the migration of clinical scientists into technology corporations that are focused on gathering, analysing and storing information is long overdue. Because of the costs and difficulties of obtaining data about health and disease, scientists conducting clinical or population studies have rarely been able to track sufficient numbers of patients closely enough to make anything other than coarse predictions. Given such limitations, who wouldn’t want access to Internet-scale, multidimensional health data; teams of engineers who can build sensors for data collection and algorithms for analysis; and the resources to conduct projects at scales and speeds unthinkable in the public sector?

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Nature

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