By collecting genetic and molecular data to analyze using its vast computing power, Google aims to glimpse what a healthy human should look like and uncover biomarkers for disease, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Baseline Study, as the project is dubbed, first plans to enroll 175 people, with perhaps thousands to join later.
The study is being spearheaded by Andrew Conrad, who joined Google X a little more than a year ago, and his team of researchers from fields including biochemistry, optics, physiology, and molecular biology.
The Baseline Study plans to collect participants' genomes and family history information as well as data on how they metabolize food and drugs, how their hearts beats under stressful conditions, and more.
"Other mass medical and genomics studies exist. But Baseline will amass a much larger and broader set of new data," the Journal's Alistair Barr writes. "The hope is that this will help researchers detect killers such as heart disease and cancer far earlier, pushing medicine more toward prevention rather than the treatment of illness."
Critics wonder whether Google will be making the data publicly available and how the company will protect participants' identities and data, the Globe and Mail adds.
"I don't know their agenda, the issue here would be the transparency, are they going to make all this data available?" George Yousef from St. Michael's Hospital tells the Globe and Mail.
The Journal notes that institutional review boards at Duke University and Stanford University will oversee the study and control how the information is used.
"That's certainly an issue that's been discussed," Sam Gambhir, the chair of the radiology department at Stanford who has been working with Conrad on the project, tells the WSJ. "Google will not be allowed free rein to do whatever it wants with this data."