Google opens new office near Mayo Clinic campus to galvanize health tech collaboration

Big tech has been interested in healthcare for years, as Silicon Valley giants like Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft see significant growth potential in leveraging tech to modernize the often clunky industry. Many have partnered with big-name industry incumbents and prestigious health systems as a way to gain access to millions of patient records, get the inside scoop on physician pain points and give their health R&D efforts an aura of authenticity.

Google struck a decadelong partnership with 182-year-old medical system Mayo in 2019. When the partnership was first announced, Google said they planned to open a new office near Mayo’s main campus, and is now following through on that promise.

The goal of the business venture is to form an “AI factory,” churning out algorithms and other digital products powered by Google in a variety of clinical specialties. It’s a growing sector, with the healthcare analytics market expected to reach $50.5 billion globally by 2024, up from $14 billion in 2019.

Currently, Mayo has about 40 teams trained on AI tools, Chris Ross, Mayo Clinic’s chief information officer, told reporters during a press conference Thursday.

“We’re not at a point where we can share where these are, but they’re in a variety of settings for clinical applicability,” Ross said.

In late October, Google and Mayo announced the first AI project of their sweeping data partnership: creating an algorithm to improve radiation therapy targeting cancer patients by drawing contours around a neck or head tumor dividing it from healthy tissue, along with tools to help determine dosage and treatment plans.

At the time, the companies said their regulatory experts were exploring potential ways to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a medical device incorporating the algorithms, while others researched how the algorithms might be incorporated into the clinical workflow.

That project is still in its early stages, with researchers working to validate the AI’s efficacy, Eric Harnisch, senior director of corporate development at Mayo Clinic, said Thursday.

“Those initial results are not in yet, but once we have those we’ll start to look at what the validation, the regulatory phases look like and we’ll plan to provide more updates as we move that forward,” Harnisch said.

The new space, in a coworking site in downtown Rochester, is Google’s first physical office in Minnesota.