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'Going Big'

Both Eric Schmidt, the executive chair of the board at Alphabet, and Jessica Mega, the chief medical officer at Verily Life Sciences, have defended Verily's ambitious, high profile projects, Stat News reports.

"We're very, very confident of not only [Verily's] approaches, but also the controls, reviews, and processes that will ultimately produce some amazing medical breakthroughs," Eric Schmidt said at Alphabet's annual shareholder's meeting, according to Stat News. He added that the company has a strong oversight group in place.

Earlier this week, Stat News reported that some scientists and former employees at the Google spinoff had doubts about the feasibility of some of the company's projects. Stat News said that Verily leadership appeared "not to grasp the reality that biology can be more complex and less predictable than computers." For instance, it noted that its Tricorder Project to develop a cancer-detecting device has been dismissed as "science fantasy" by a biosensors expert and that its Baseline Project to create a picture of healthy person and uncover early markers of cancer and heart disease by sifting through genetic, microbiome, psychosocial, and other data from 10,000 people over five years is too small and fit into too short a timeframe to actually do so.

At the BIO International Convention, Verily's Mega said the company was fostering a "creative environment" in which both successes and failures were possible. "The freedom to think big … it's a real gift," she said, according to Stat News.

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf, who headed the Baseline effort at Duke University before he left for FDA, tells Stat News that the project aims to go "deep, in a small group of people, to know everything about them — understand their genetics, their genomics, physiological monitoring, all of that."

In response to the criticism, he adds that "[w]hat I tell trainees is that if you're doing clinical research and you're not being criticized, you're probably not doing anything important."