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Alphabet health group Verily scoops up Tesla’s former CFO, among other key hires

Deepak Ahuja is joining Verily as CFO.

Deepak Ahuja, Verily

Verily, the health and life sciences unit of Google parent company Alphabet, has brought on some key hires as it looks to scale the business.

The company has hired a new chief financial officer, Deepak Ahuja, who spent two separate stints working at Tesla and helped take the electric car-maker public after rising up the ranks as a financial executive at Ford Motor Company. Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced Ahuja’s retirement from the electric car maker at the beginning of 2019 in an earnings call to investors. Since then, he’s been an advisor to various sustainable technology ventures, but told CNBC he made the decision to move into health care after meeting Verily CEO Andy Conrad.

“Health care is in a state of crisis,” said Ahuja by phone. “Verily has a combination of solutions, which I see as redefining how we approach the sector by lowering costs and improving care. That’s near and dear to my heart.”

Verily, which was previously known as Google Life Sciences, has announced a series of partnerships with health care companies, which typically involve an investment in new technology. There are more than a dozen efforts underway, including a new sensor with the medical device maker Dexcom to track blood sugar for people with type 2 diabetes, and a technology project with ResMed to help diagnose people with a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. There’s also a partnership with Novartis, Pfizer and other large drug companies to help modernize their clinical trials with technology.

Another big part of the business, which is run by the company’s president Vivan Lee, involves working with hospitals and health systems to help them embrace new payment models, including paying doctors based on patient health outcomes rather than the volume of procedures conducted.

Verily has signaled previously that it is looking to scale and grow outside of its parent company, Alphabet. A year ago, the unit took $1 billion in new financing led by the private equity firm Silver Lake. At the time, Verily’s CEO Andy Conrad said the funding would “increase flexibility and optionality.” It also announced that Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat would join the board.

Ahuja has experience bringing companies public. He was the chief financial officer for Tesla through its initial public offering in 2010.

In addition to hiring Ahuja, the company also brought on Scott Burke, a new chief technology officer from Helix, a consumer DNA company backed by Illumina, and Vindell Washington, the former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, as its chief clinical officer for its “platforms” business.

Burke, who joined the call with Ahuja, noted that Verily’s focus on partnerships with health care companies drew him to the business. He was also attracted to the opportunity to work on projects involving health data that are much broader in scope than genetics.

Both the new hires noted that Verily is in a position to scale and grow. “When I joined Tesla there were only 350 employees,” Ahuja said. Tesla is now an $80 billion company. “But Tesla came into being when there was a window of opportunity. It might not have worked a decade earlier.”

Both Ahuja and Burke said they saw the same window of opportunity in health care today. “Think about the convergence of hardware development, the miniaturization of sensor technology, big data and AI,” noted Ahuja.

Verily’s existing CFO Duncan Welstead, who led it through its various financing rounds, will stay on as the company to oversee financial operations. The company has raised more than in $1.8 billion in total financing since it became an independent subsidiary of Alphabet in 2015.

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