Not So Verily [Link]

June 08, 2016 by Gabe | [mmd] | ℳ↫

Derek Lowe has some choice comments about the Google biotech Verily.

Here's the quote from their CEO:

. . .We’ve done a lot, to be quite humble about it. Enough to give us great confidence that this is all likely to work. . .

We know that much of this works: we’ve become very good at nanoparticle decorating, we’ve become very good at concentrating them and understanding how they behave in magnetic fields. There’s still a million crazy things that happen with people, and there’s a long journey to put medicines into people, and it has to be done in the open because we’re going to do experiments— people will be wearing these devices at our Baseline Study. But I think we have years to go, not decades.

This sounds like complete B.S. and it's very likely it was. From Derek Lowe:

As a note for the future, any time someone tries to tell you that a new biomedical technology works so great that it doesn’t even have to be run through a rat, you should probably start heading for the exits.

Verily’s statement to Stat about the project sounds a lot more grounded in reality, though, as opposed to being grounded in whizbang PowerPoint slides: they said in response to a query that it’s “very early stage”, “ambitious”, “difficult” and so on, and I have no problem believing any of that, as opposed to believing that it all pretty much already works, y’know, to be humble about it.

The slap-dash product development used for software is not a good match for medical research. Nor should it be. With success stories like Theranos (which is looking pretty unreliable now) and Verily I give it five years before Silicon Valley comes to terms with its hubris and humbleness and pulls out of Biotech. Overall I think this shody approach is a real shame. They could have done some good with all of that money instead of spending it on media blitz campaigns.

Derek references this Stat article by Charles Pillar which is also excellent.