Last April, Verily Life Sciences, a division of Alphabet, launched the Project Baseline Study, a landmark four year, multi-site study of 10,000 individuals all over the United States utilizing both smartphone-based devices and old-fashioned in-clinic medical tests. The goal of the study is to learn what the “normal” measures of health are for a population and how genetics, lifestyle choices, and other factors affect these measures of health.
It had been a year since this editor joined the study, so it was time for him last week to return to the Stanford Center for Clinical Research (CRA) for the annual visit. It was essentially an abbreviated version of his first visit, consisting of a half day of many of the same tests. Some of the tests, such as the clinical images, were intentionally left off the list, to be performed the following year. A few staff members mentioned that one particular test, lacrimal collection, had been removed from the protocol, much to their relief, and undoubtedly to the relief of many participants as well! Throughout the day, the staff was upbeat and enthusiastic as usual, and shared many stories of successes, learning and improvement opportunities, and interesting observations from the data they’ve collected in the first year.
At the conclusion of the visit, we left Stanford with another small swag bag, materials to donate yet another stool sample, and a more profound admiration for the work that both Verily and Stanford have done to carry out this massive project.
Over the past year, there’s been a lot of activity surrounding Project Baseline. To date, about 2,000 people have enrolled in the study, with about 700 of them signing up at Stanford.
In June, Verily held an event for participants to share about the development history of the Study Watch, the other clinical studies the watch is being used in, and also gave a sneak peak at the next version of the watch (still not yet released), which includes a redesigned user interface among other updates.
Much has also evolved in how Verily is returning data to Baseline participants. In the first year, they’ve gone from completely blinding participant data, to creatively presenting sleep and step data as a personalized snowflake for their holiday card, to providing a comprehensive report of lab test results, to displaying on the mobile app the number of steps participants take.
While it’s still a work in progress, the return of research data is a cause that Verily is heavily championing. In March, Scott was invited to SXSW to speak on a panel with Verily to share his experiences as a participant and help advocate for the return of results to subjects when conducting clinical research.
It’s hard to believe that we’re only a quarter of the way through the Project Baseline Study. With all the publicity that the study has received, the massive quantity of data it’s collected, and the insights into both human health and the changing paradigm of how clinical research is performed, it feels like it has been much longer. The progress Verily has made in the past year would take a lifetime for many involved in clinical research. We’re excited to see what Year 2 might bring.