Very Few Things Are Stopping Big Tech from “Popping” in Healthcare

Big tech’s presence in healthcare is growing. The latest example is a partnership with Microsoft, Verily, and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to push innovations in biomedicine through the Terra Platform.

Omar Ford

January 11, 2021

3 Min Read

Big tech companies’ presence in healthcare continues to grow with a newly announced partnership that could have a direct impact on biomedicine. Microsoft, Verily, and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have teamed up to push innovations in biomedicine through the Terra Platform.

The platform, originally developed by Verily and the Broad Institute, is a secure, scalable, open-source platform for biomedical researchers to access data, run analysis tools and collaborate. 

The new partnership aims to break through those barriers by bringing together Microsoft’s cloud, data, and AI technologies, and global network of more than 168,000 health and life sciences partners to accelerate the development of global biomedical research through the Terra platform, provide greater access and empower the open-source community.

Building on the open-source foundation of Terra, the new collaboration will advance the ability of data scientists, biomedical researchers, and clinicians around the world to collaborate in tackling some of the most complex and widespread diseases facing society today.

“We’re pleased to be working with Microsoft and Broad on this initiative. Our three organizations share the goals of improving patient care, driving innovation in biomedical research, and lowering costs across healthcare and life sciences,” Stephen Gillett, COO at Verily, said in a release. “This partnership combines multimodal data, secure analytics, and scalable cloud computing to improve insight and evidence generation, allowing us to ultimately impact more patients’ lives.”

“The opportunity to partner with the Broad Institute and Verily in helping researchers around the world understand and treat our toughest human diseases is an honor,” Gregory Moore, M.D., Ph.D., corporate vice president of Microsoft Health Next, said in a release. “Through this partnership, we will apply the power of Microsoft Azure and its enterprise-grade capabilities in security and privacy, along with cutting-edge data and AI solutions like Azure Synapse Analytics, Azure Machine Learning and Azure Cognitive Services, to deliver on the vision of the Terra platform at a new level of scale.”


Taking a Deep Look at Big Tech’s Influence in Healthcare

Big tech companies’ presence in healthcare greatly expanded during the onset of the pandemic.

Microsoft jumped into health in 2020 by forming an alliance with UnitedHealth Group. The two companies launched the ProtectWell protocol, which includes a smartphone app that can help screen for COVID-19 symptoms.

In May, two tech rivals, Google (another Alphabet company) and Apple launched the Exposure Notification technology for COVID-19.

2018 was a breakout year for Amazon in healthcare. The company teamed up with Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase and Co. to form Haven, a joint venture focused on tackling the high and rising costs for employee healthcare. (Editor’s note: Earlier this month, MD+DI reported Haven would be shutting down in February.)

Shortly after Haven was formed, Amazon made another powerplay in healthcare by hiring Taha Kass-Hout, MD, a former FDA chief health informatics officer, to serve in a business development role focusing on projects. 

The Seattle, WA-based company took an even deeper dive into healthcare in October of 2018. Amazon teamed up with Arcadia, a consultancy group, to launch an exclusive brand of consumer-use medical devices for diabetes and hypertension management.

In late 2019, Google announced it would acquire Fitbit in a deal valued at $2.1 billion. The deal would place Google on firmer footing in the wearables market to compete against Apple. (Editor’s Note: MD+DI interviewed Fitbit’s Dr. Conor Heneghan about the company’s recent COVID-19 study.)

And on Monday, Biogen announced it was launching a virtual research study in collaboration with Apple to use the big tech company’s technology to help monitor a person’s cognitive decline. The study is slated to begin sometime this year.  

About the Author(s)

Omar Ford

Omar Ford is MD+DI's Editor-in-Chief. You can reach him at [email protected].


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