Google Life Sciences just hired the government's top mental illness expert

Google’s Life Sciences team is growing quickly, now that it’s part of the Alphabet family.

And today, Thomas Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, announced he would be joining the growing ranks.

Insel has served as NIMH’s director for 13 years. He wrote in his statement,

“The [Google Life Sciences] mission is about creating technology that can help with earlier detection, better prevention, and more effective management of serious health conditions. I am joining the team to explore how this mission can be applied to mental illness. That the life sciences team at Google would establish a major exploration into mental health is by itself a significant statement — recognising the burden of illness from psychosis, mood disorders, and autism as well as the opportunity for technology to make a major impact to change the world for the millions affected.”

This is Google Life Sciences’ first big push into mental illness. The company is also exploring treatments for diabetes with its glucose-monitoring technologies in contact lenses.

During his tenure as NIMH director, Insel has led important plans to understand the brain, including the BRAIN initiative, an ongoing public-private research effort launched by President Obama in 2013 with the goal of learning more about how the brain works and developing technologies to treat neurological problems and disease.

A trained psychiatrist and neuroscientist, he has also worked to understand the role of genetics in mental illnesses, and focused attention on autism research, according to his NIMH biography.

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