Many of us personally know someone who has suffered from heart disease. In the United States alone, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Coronary heart disease is the most common, and deadly type of heart disease, which currently kills over 370,000 people a year. Heart attacks are on the rise as well, as 735, 000 Americans suffer from them annually. Increased obesity rates, a lack of exercise, and other factors have contributed to these catastrophic numbers.
So what can be done to solve this health crisis? Other than encouraging health lifestyles and investing in new medications, there have been numerous initiatives and charities which have worked to resolve this epidemic. Google has decided to now come to the rescue with its own bold initiative, including a $50 million grant for a team that is seeking to cure heart disease.
Shoot For the Moon
So what’s Google’s plan? Well, according to Wired.com, they are taking a huge chance - rather, a “moonshot,”- by contributing the money to one team over five years who they believe is deserving of the financial support. Google coined the phrase during the founding of their self-driving car, and other bold initiatives. They define it as a project or proposal that addresses a huge problem, proposes a radical solution, and uses breakthrough technology to achieve results.
Google is partnering with the American Heart Association to empower teams to apply for the money in January through mid-February. Research teams, scientists, and charities who are applying must explain their idea to help cure the disease on one page or less in order to “win” the $50 million.
Researchers have been relying much of the time on federal grants for their funding, which has proven to sometimes be problematic. Often, the government gives money to favorite organizations, instead of making the grants merit-based. As on researcher stated, “They would fund three to five or six investigators who would make use of core facilities and infrastructure that would allow groups of scientists to gain synergy, but it didn’t necessarily result in greater efficiencies.”
It’s quite possible that this merit-based, competitive approach will work. Or perhaps it will fall short. Either way, the money will go towards a great cause. Gregory Graff, a researcher at the Saha Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Kentucky, is giddy about the possibilities this money could bring. He explains, “We have the capacity to make very precise measurements of things that up until very recently, we’ve not been able to take a look at. We live in an era where we can generate very large quantities of data; what we don’t have are very good tools to make sense of it.”
Hopefully this money can provide the necessary tools to start solving a real health crisis that is claiming the lives of 17 million a year across the globe. At the very least, Google’s aim towards the moon will land them somewhere among the stars. Though $50 million is quite a big sum to give away, Google is usually apt at solving a problem when they see a possible solution.