Amazon is working tirelessly to find more and more pots to stick its Amazon Prime fingers in. The e-commerce goliath’s newest focus is healthcare, and it has two projects aimed at pushing in that direction. One is a secretive venture with the goal of (tell me if you’ve heard this one before) revolutionizing electronic medical records. The other is an investment that Amazon’s using to position itself as the solution for storing insane amounts of human genetic data. The company invested in Grail, a start-up planning to use its technology to flag the earliest signs of cancer. That requires a ton of data storage and processing, and if Amazon and Grail can pull it off here, you can bet it’ll be a huge market for them.
Amazon Echo users can use voice commands to do all sorts of things. “Alexa, order granola bars.” “Alexa, turn on the lights.” “Alexa, clean the house.” (Just kidding…hey, one can dream, right?) Now Merck & Co. is sponsoring the Alexa Diabetes Challenge in which contestants submitted concepts for using Alexa’s technology for diabetes management. The ideas from the five finalists span from a smart foot scanner, to a coach that responds to patients’ moods, to a nutrition assistant that utilizes machine learning to provide meal recommendations. The winner gets $125k and a whole lot of bragging rights.
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CNBC reported that Amazon is continuing its march towards “world domination” by possibly entering the pharmacy market and has hired a general manager. This comes on the heels of Amazon expanding their Prime Now delivery service in Japan to include drug and cosmetic sales. Back to the auto parts discussion. In January of this year, Amazon reported it will start selling auto parts in the US and US auto part retailers lost ~5% of their market capitalization overnight. Amazon is a beast and has the logistic capabilities to sell drugs. They may not have to do it better than current mail order providers, the convenience of a one-stop-shop might be enough. Soon you might not want your kids opening the Amazon box.
Alexa could be preparing to handle that question and many more from people with diabetes following a partnership between Merck and Amazon Web Services. The two companies will work alongside Luminary Labs to run a challenge focused on using Amazon Echo’s voice-enabled software to assist those with diabetes, with the long-term hope of expanding to other chronic illnesses. The Echo, which is set to sell around 110 million devices over the next four years, may have utility in the future that’s beyond playing your favorite song or telling you the weather. With the help of developers, it could morph into a tool used to remind people of their nutrition plans or schedule their upcoming insulin dosages.
Cancer…the c-word is cancer. Grail, a Silicon Valley startup, is developing a blood test similar to a liquid biopsy that works proactively to spot cancer. According to Business Insider, the goal is to “identify the tiny bits of cancer DNA that are hanging out in our blood but are now undetectable.” A test like that will take time, massive clinical trials and, of course, money. Lucky for them, Grail just raised more than $900M in funding from big names like Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, McKesson Ventures, Merck, Tencent Holdings Limited, Varian Medical Systems, and even Amazon. Who knows, maybe Prime members can get test results delivered to their front door in less than two business days.