Google and Johnson & Johnson will team up to develop an advanced, robot-assisted surgery platform. Both companies will contribute intellectual property and expertise. Johnson & Johnson will also lend assistance from its subsidiary Ethicon, maker of medical devices.
Collaborations like the one with J&J could prompt Google to spin off a biotech company within the next few years to support many healthcare efforts, from self-driving cars to "smart" contact lenses. It has the engineering and partnership support. Some might call it biomedical engineering.
This week, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office granted Google a patent describing a sensor in a lens that could monitor glucose, among other things. Novartis formed a partnership with the company in 2014, to make a glucose-monitoring contact lens for diabetics.
It's plausible that companies in the healthcare industry would convince Google to form a joint venture to improve the bio-tech and the healthcare industries, said Kevin Lee, founders of Didit, and wecare.com, as well as nearly 10 other companies throughout his career. "It needs to be a significant venture, and all would need to contribute assets," he said. "When you start generating revenue models, different from your core business, you can make a case for spinning off the company."
Lee points to nanotechnology that contributes to mini-robotics as a huge opportunity in robotics assisted biotech. Google has acquired an army of companies with robotic technologies in the past two years -- namely eight. Aside from surgeries, robotics would advance self-driving cars. He also noted that Google co-founders have said the company would act like a venture capitalist and make bets on new investments.
Google co-founder Sergei Brin has been interested in healthcare for some time. His former wife founded 23andme, a saliva-based DNA service. It provides genetic reports on ancestry, family history and help you connect with your DNA relatives.
Collaborations between technology and healthcare could also create wearable technologies and a medical research platform, similar to Apple's ResearchKit.
As for Google and J&J, the collaboration would create minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery, relying on technology to give surgeons greater control, access and accuracy during surgical procedures, and minimizing trauma and scarring for patients.
The companies want to develop new robotic tools and capabilities for surgeons and operating room professionals that integrate best-in-class medical device technology with leading-edge robotic systems, imaging and data analytics.