Internet giant Google is continuing its foray into healthcare research by signing a deal looking at the progression of multiple sclerosis with Biogen Idec, according to Bloomberg.

The news agency says that the agreement came about after Biogen chief executive George Scangos ran into Andrew Conrad, head of the life science division of Google X (the unit which has linked up with Novartis on a smart contact lens project for diabetics) at a digital health conference. Mr Scangos told Bloomberg that “they bring great expertise in data analytics and technology, they’re sophisticated in their approach, they understand biology”.

Using sensors, software and data analysis tools, the companies will collect and sift through data from people with MS. The aim of the project is to see why MS progresses differently from patient to patient, said Rick Rudick, Biogen’s head of development sciences.

Dr Conrad has assembled 150 scientists, including oncologists and immunologists to Google X, which sees itself as an R&D partner for the pharmaceutical industry. “We’re never going to be a pharma company - we don’t manufacture drugs,” he told Bloomberg.

“What I think and hope we’re good at is trying to do this moonshot, innovative thinking, where it’s OK to fail, and we’re looking for partners to join in these endeavours”.