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Alphabet forms JV focused on diabetes management

Google parent’s healthcare unit, Verily, forms venture with French pharma firm Sanofi, to develop medication management platform

The combination of mobile connectivity, software and medicine could revolutionize healthcare, and many mobile and IT giants are investing heavily in it. One of these, of course, is Google parent Alphabet, which has a division devoted to the topic, Verily Life Sciences. This has announced a joint venture with French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi to address diabetes, one of the developed world’s biggest health problems.

The two companies will invest about $500m in the JV, which is called Onduo, and look to innovate in the way diabetes is monitored and treated. Already partners, they will now have greater resources to combine their respective capabilities – Sanofi’s in drugs and Verily’s in miniaturized connected devices, software and analytics. The venture will focus in particular on ways to improve medication management and and will be led by Joshua Riff as CEO.

Onduo will be partnering with two US healthcare networks, Sutter Health and Allegheny Health Network, so that healthcare providers can start testing out its diabetes management platform as soon as this is available.

Not that Riff is in a hurry to define the exact solutions Onduo has in mind. He told Business Insider: “That’s the beauty of it. … We’re not jumping to solutions because we’re in a rush to get to market. We’re taking a thoughtful approach to finding lasting solutions.”

Sanofi, with one of its most successful drugs in decline, might disagree with the lack of urgency. The head of the French firm’s diabetes efforts, Stefan Oelrich, said in an interview with Bloomberg: “The beauty of the joint venture in a way is that we don’t rely on the typical 10-year development cycle of a pharmaceutical asset. We start to innovate today.”

This more flexible approach is expected to revolutionize medicine by shortening cost and time to market and making monitoring more efficient, and less costly and intrusive. With its key diabetes medicine, Lantus, in decline, Sanofi is making a big push behind more modern alternatives, and is running a trial involving over 4,500 patients for a once-a-day insulin product called Toujeo.

Meanwhile, Verily has a wide range of projects on the go, including glucose monitoring contact lenses, and cutlery which is easier to use for people with tremors. It has other partnerships with medical specialists, and spin-outs focused on surgical robots and bioelectronics.

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