Sage Bionetworks said in a media release today that is president and co-founder Dr. Stephen Friend has joined Apple. “Dr. Friend has accepted a position with Apple Inc. where he will work on health-related projects,” reads the release.
He will stay on as Sage’s chairman of the board.
Sage was one of the launch partners for ResearchKit, a framework Apple launched in March 2015 to accelerate advanced medical research by allowing medical professionals to create iOS apps which tap into the iPhone’s many sensors to collect anonymized data on various diseases and symptoms.
Business Insider called this Apple’s most high-profile health-related hire yet.
“Sage Bioneworks is definitely a big player with where Apple goes with health, but there’s some sort of pseudo-interesting relationship between the two of them,” said Ahmed Albaiti, CEO of health care consultancy Medullan.
According to Albaiti, Sage has a very “rich think-tank set of resources”.
Prior to co-founding Sage Bionetworks, Dr. Friend was charged with leading oncology research at Merck & Co. He had also served on the faculty at Harvard Medical School.
Sage designed and launched two of the first five ResearchKit studies: the mPower app focused on Parkinson’s Disease, which later became one of the first CareKit-enabled apps, and Share The Journey, focused on the survivors of breast cancer.
It also runs the Bridge Server, a set of software services that provide open-source backend data collection and distribution for ResearchKit and CareKit-based mobile health apps. Since the launch of ResearchKit, Sage Bionetworks has helped develop and hosts data for other mobile health projects as well.
The iPhone maker recently sought a lawyer who focused on medical privacy who could consult on possible mergers and acquisitions. Lat month, Apple’s boss Tim Cook reiterated his firm’s “massive interest” in health-based projects and noted that, in his view, the healthcare space is “ripe for simplicity and a new view.”