Verily Life Sciences, the healthcare subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is expanding the investment and collaboration program — called Partner Space — that it launched in 2017 to work with startups.
The Partner Space already houses somewhere between six and eight companies (of which only two are publicly disclosed). That number could almost double to between 12 and 15 companies, according to Verily Life Sciences’ head of business and corporate development and ventures lead, Andy Harrison.
Verily’s move to expand its work with startups in healthcare comes on the heels of the company’s $1 billion cash infusion at the beginning of January.
That round, led by the technology-focused private equity investment firm Silver Lake, and including the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, was designed to support growth in key strategic areas, including partnerships, business development and potential acquisitions, according to a statement.
“The companies that are in that space we are equity owners of,” says Harrison. “We want some upside from the things that we contribute that could enhance their business.”
Harrison described Verily’s Partner Space investments as typical Series A or B deals, where the opportunity to work from the company’s South San Francisco campus was a complementary perk, but not a prerequisite for taking Verily’s cash.
Two companies that have taken Verily up on its offer are Freenome, which uses artificial intelligence and genomic information for better cancer screening and diagnostics tests, and Culture Robotics, which uses automation and robotics to improve cell cultivation.
“The main thesis is digital health,” said Harrison of the company’s investment strategy. “Combining complex biological processes with very sophisticated informatics. It’s the nexus of biology and informatics that we tend to focus on. We are interested in healthcare innovations that the world needs. That humanity needs.”
The Partner Space is an embodiment of that interest, according to Harrison. Or, as the company put it in a blog post back when it launched the initiative:
Through Partner Space, Verily aims to foster a rich ecosystem for innovation and idea sharing by offering office and lab space, exposure to the Verily team and other collaboration partners, and access to shared amenities.
Verily Partner Space is an expansion of the way we have worked at Verily since our inception – inviting our partners, from Onduo, Galvani and Verb for example, to share our workplace, eliminating the natural boundaries of space and distance. In so doing, we can more quickly advance our initiatives and solve really challenging problems in healthcare. We are excited, through Verily Partner Space, to extend our physical space to the start-up community and bring other like-minded entities into our fold with the goal to collectively pursue better health outcomes for humanity.