An exclusive chat with Google’s Ivor Horn and the details on Verily’s $1 billion round

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Sitting down with Google’s Ivor Horne

Physician Ivor Horn has led Google’s health equity efforts since 2020; her team of public health experts, social and behavioral academics, and doctors with experience with marginalized communities advise Google teams about how to make products like search, YouTubeFitBit, and Google Cloud more equitably accessible. Among projects Horn oversees: making Medicaid sign-ups more easily searchable through Google. Horn reports to Karen DeSalvo, who still leads the company’s health projects after the broader health division was dissolved last year. I chatted with Horn ahead of Google’s health equity summit.

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What’s your role at Google and how did you get here?

I’m a physician — pediatrician by training, with public health training as well. My work in academia focused on health equity, and technology at the intersection of patient engagement and consumer engagement… What led me to Google is really the work of doing health equity at scale. My team is part of a wider team that is composed of health experts. Oftentimes we work with everyone from the research teams that are thinking about research related to health, to the product teams who are doing health-related products within the company, all the way to working with the Cloud team.

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How do you measure success?

There isn’t a one size fits all way to do things. We really work with the teams and understanding what the measure [should be] for the solution that they’re working on…

We’re not just looking at the overall numbers. We’re looking at how can we potentially close gaps and how can we make sure that we’re not worsening disparities?

I don’t think I would share specific metrics. I can say to you that we’ve worked with the teams closely on making sure that as they’re thinking about how they do measurement, that we’re thinking about diverse populations, and think about marginalized populations and making sure that our solutions work well for everyone.

How do you make sure these efforts are sustainable and not just for show? 

It is really about creating the infrastructure in a sustainable environment where we are integrating health equity into the DNA of the way we work as it relates to health. There aren’t any shortcuts. One of the things that is really important for me and for our team is that we recognize this is not this is not a moment. This is a long term body of work.

It’s really about integrating it into the work that we do… We try to move as far upstream as we possibly can, as teams are thinking about the product development lifecycle, how are they thinking about being inclusive in that.

Verily’s $1 billion funding round 

The Alphabet life sciences spinout plans to use the latest eye popping cash infusion to support real world evidence generation and related software and technology. Alphabet led the round, suggesting that Verily will remain close to that company even as it seeks to build an independent and profitable business, Casey reports. We’ll be watching as the company transitions to new leadership — operational advisor Stephen Gillett will take over the day-to-day operations starting in January — and pursues more health data business.

“When we think about the world of health data, there’s going to be a 1,500-fold increase in health information,” Jessica Mega, the company’s chief medical and scientific officer, told STAT in June. “There is new information out in the world that is going to help redefine comprehensive health.”

Biden’s Cancer Moonshot and other dispatches from Washington 

President Joe Biden reprised his call for more investment and attention to cancer research Monday, marking the 60th anniversary of JFK’s moonshot speech. Among new initiatives the administration touted: NIH’s expansion of the Cancer Research Data Ecosystem, which supports better data sharing for treatment discovery. USDA is also working with NIH to combine poverty and cancer data.

Also in Washington: The administration convened a listening session on holding tech platforms accountable for harm to consumers — including by spreading misinformation and eroding privacy and mental health.

Some participants warned White House advisers about companies collecting sensitive personal information that could infringe on reproductive rights and individual safety, following the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Among attendees: the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative’s Danielle Citron, the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Alexandra Reeve Givens, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Damon Hewitt.

Though it’s not yet clear what this will actually look like,  the administration committed to a handful of  “core principles” following the listening session, including“clear limits” on the collection and use of personal data.

The White House said those limits “ should put the burden on platforms to minimize how much information they collect, rather than burdening Americans with reading fine print. We especially need strong protections for particularly sensitive data such as geolocation and health information, including information related to reproductive health.”

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In other funding news  

  • Redesign Health, which launches other health care companies including home health care company MedArrive, raised a $65 million Series C round led by General Catalyst. CVS Health VenturesUPMC Enterprises and Samsung Next were among other participants in the round.

People in the news

  • Former Cerner president Donald Trigg has been named CEO of apree health, a new entity combining Castlight and Vera Whole Health.
  • Gauillaume Bailliard is now president of health care for 3-D printing company Formlabs.
  • Medical device company May Health — formerly known as AblaCare — named Anne Morrissey its CEO. Morrissey led womens’ health focused medical device company Alydia Healthwhich was acquired by Merck spinoff Organon last year.

What we’re reading

  • Why TikTok’s parent company bought a chain of birthing centers, The Information
  • How to make virtual care work for the visually impaired, Fierce Healthcare
  • Biden appointed biologist and former government scientist Renee Wegrzyn as the Advanced Research Projects’ Agency for Health’s first director, STAT
Source: STAT