May 11th, 2015

Prominent Harvard Cardiologist Moves to Google X to Head Large Study

Here’s a clear sign of the ascending role of digital/precision/personalized medicine: a prominent cardiologist has left a top academic and clinical position in Boston to run a large, innovative study in Silicon Valley. Jessica Mega was widely perceived as a rising star at Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She has now joined Google X, Google’s research arm, where she will head up the much publicized Baseline Study.

“I’m jealous,” said one academic cardiologist at a top hospital, upon hearing the news.

Baseline is one of the ambitious projects undertaken by the life sciences division of Google X. First announced last year, the Baseline Study is designed “to understand what it means to be healthy, down to the molecular and cellular level,” according to a Google press statement. In its first small pilot phase the study is collecting genetic and molecular information on 175 people. The researchers aim to employ “powerful software algorithms and large amounts of computing power to query enormous and complex data sets to find connections that no one has been able to probe before.” Google X has teamed with researchers at Stanford and Duke to design and conduct the larger study which will enroll thousands of patients and involve an unprecedented quantity of data.

Mega gained considerable attention as a senior investigator with the TIMI Study Group, where she played a leading role in several important clinical trials, including ATLAS ACS-TIMI 46 and ATLAS ACS 2-TIMI 51 with rivaroxaban (Xarelto, Johnson & Johnson). She  was the principal investigator of the ELEVATE-TIMI 56 trial, which studied escalating doses of clopidogrel based on CYP2C19 genotype.

Google X says that the study “is intended as a contribution to science; it’s not intended to generate a new product at Google,” though it may “unlock lots of ideas for future projects, not just at Google but across the health and technology industries.” Google says the results of the study will be made available to qualified researchers for their own use.

Bob Harrington, chairman of Stanford’s Department of Medicine, said that he was “thrilled by Google’s recruitment of Jessica to join the team working with our group and Duke. She was an inspired choice: smart, insightful, experienced, great communicator etc. She understands the science and the operations of clinical research given her TIMI background. In addition to her role at Google, we hope to get her engaged in other clinical and research activities on the Stanford campus in our department. Finally, we are pleased to welcome her back home to the Farm as she is a Stanford grad!”

Robert Califf, who played a key role in bringing the trial to Duke, is now the Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco at the FDA. “Dr. Mega has all the skills and temperament to lead this effort for Google, which will break new ground for precision medicine and complement the Precision Medicine Initiative. Her scientific knowledge, experience in clinical trials, and positive personality are a great fit,” said Califf.

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