Steven Levy / Backchannel:
Google X’s Life Sciences team is developing nanoparticles that enter your bloodstream for early detection of cancer and other diseases — “We’re Hoping to Build the Tricorder” — Google X’s Andrew Conrad is developing an early disease detection system that could reinvent health care
I do love this technology and feel that something like this will soon be helping keeping healthy people healthy. I like that they are using technology to try and understand what healthy really means.
I worry about Google patenting all this. I worry about the business incentives Google has. I worry about what Google might be tempted to do with all that data. Or the Big Pharma that Google might market this to.
Some of the sociopathy of research comes from trying to monetize human health. Jonas Salk famously did not the polio vaccine patented, stating “Could you patent the sun?”
César Milstein produced the hybridoma tecnhology that permits large-scale antibody production, which underpins a tremendous amount of our current diagnostic tests. He passed on the necessary cell lines, simply asking that researchers not patent any cells.
Most likely, the very antibodies Google X is painting on the nanoparticles are derived from the work of Milstein. If they had been patented, would all this cool stuff Google X is doing even be possible?
I would have real appreciation of Google if they did what Salk and Milstein did – set the technology free for anyone to use, for their own innovative purposes.
Instead,I fear they will simply figure out a way to use the technology to sell more ads.