The leader of the diagnostics project, according to the person familiar, was Kristen Helton, a PhD in bioengineering who also co-founded a health monitoring start-up. Her previous academic papers point to an interest in point-of-care diagnostics, specifically making it easier for people to access tools to test for disease outside of the lab. She has also looked closely at using saliva as an alternative to blood for biomedical testing.
Other Amazon employees involved in the diagnostics project and discussions included Parviz; Adam Siegel, who previously developed a medical device start-up; and Douglas Weibel, who teaches biochemistry and biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
All the people have been part of a bigger team at Amazon called “Grand Challenge,” which is run by Parviz and has also operated under the monikers 1492 and Amazon X, as previously reported by CNBC.
The diagnostics project might be going under the internal code-name “Picard,” although CNBC could not confirm this definitively.
An internal document from this summer discusses a project led by Helton, code-named Picard, that is expected to bring in at least $250 million in sales by 2020. The document says Picard would be in its third year of existence by 2020, suggesting that it was slated to launch this year, and that the project was a “new initiative for Amazon (organizationally within AWS but a non-AWS product).” Parviz is one of the direct reports for AWS CEO Andy Jassy.
The name Picard, which likely originates from the “Star Trek” character, suggests that this project is health-related, as the series features a “McCoy Home Health Tablet” that promises to deliver patient data to doctors instantly. The series is also famed for a device called a “tricorder,” which measures environmental and health data. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is known to be a “Star Trek” fan.