Google’s former life-science arm Verily is initiating Project Baseline, a study with 10,000 participants. The move aims to gain better understanding of the physical and biochemical predisposition to various illnesses.

In collaboration with Duke University and Stanford Medicine, Verily will be observing a large group of healthy people over at least four years hoping to come up with disease prediction models.

The company will be using its proprietary technology, a sensor-based smartwatch designed to capture a huge volume of data. Participants will be wearing this watch on a daily basis and have their whole genomes sequenced and various biospecimens taken. Their behaviour, including social media activity, will also be monitored.

Results from this study could reveal early warning signs for diseases, which would help earlier diagnosis and help bring deeper focus on disease prevention. This is just one example of how Big Data is gaining momentum in the healthcare industry. It is also a step forward towards personalised treatment and prevention.

Defining specific clusters of population in terms of their risks for certain illnesses, based on a huge amount of physical, biochemical, and genomic data, will also open a new window of opportunities for drug developers to find novel therapies that would target causes of the disease before it develops.

The overall idea sounds promising, but the project will likely come with numerous challenges.

Verily is now a unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet.