ROCHESTER, Minn. — Internet giant Google plans to open its first Minnesota office in downtown Rochester to serve as a hub for its partnership with Mayo Clinic.
The announcement was made Thursday morning, Feb. 18, by Joe Miles, Google Cloud’s head of Healthcare and Life Sciences, that the internet giant will move into the Collider Coworking space on the second floor of the Conley-Maass-Downs building.
In the announcement, Miles stated that the new office “will give us a physical home in Minnesota, as well as will serve our long-term strategic partnership with Mayo Clinic.”
Google and Mayo Clinic launched the 10-year strategic partnership in the fall of 2019.
While millions of de-identified patient records have been moving to the Google Cloud as part of the Mayo Clinic project for more than a year, this office and the coming “Google” logo on the 120-year-old brick building will be the first physical sign of collaboration.
“A handful of Googlers will be based there permanently,” according to Google’s Rochester site leader Chris Mueller. “Those will be folks living and working in Rochester.”
While he could not be more specific about the expected number of employees or the exact space the office will occupy, he said that the Rochester office is “a big deal” for Google.
The actual opening of the office will be later this year, once it is deemed safe and in line with local and state COVID-19 guidelines.
“This is another hub in the ecosystem of the partnership,” Mueller said. “Many people within Google are excited to move across the country for the opportunity to work with Mayo Clinic.”
Rochester Mayor Kim Norton and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz are also thrilled about the project.
“Google has long supported Minnesota businesses and nonprofits, and the fact that they’ve chosen Rochester for their first physical space in the state is a testament to our reputation as a first-class city,” Norton said at Thursday's announcement.
The nearest Google offices in the region are in Madison, Wis., and Council Bluffs, Iowa, both of which started small and quickly grew.
“Google putting down roots in Minnesota will provide sustained economic opportunity not only for the Rochester area, but for our entire state,” Walz said Thursday morning. “This partnership with Mayo Clinic reinforces Minnesota’s reputation as a welcoming state for innovation and economic opportunity. We welcome Google to our community.”
According to Google, it helped generate $7.29 billion of economic activity in 2019 for 22,200 Minnesota businesses, publishers, nonprofits, creators and developers, as well as $7.3 million of free advertising to Minnesota nonprofits through the Google Ad Grants program.
Google’s Director of Global Healthcare Solutions Aashima Gupta said having Google “embedded” in the Rochester community is a key step in the Mayo-Google goal of creating tools for the digital future of health care.
While the office has not yet opened, Dr. John Halamka, president of the Mayo Clinic Platform initiative, says a lot of work has already been done as part of the Google collaboration.
Halamka’s team has been de-identifying medical records and uploading them to a secure “lockbox” on Google Cloud. He said 10 million “destructured” records were processed by April and 10 million “unstructured” records were uploaded by August.
Destructured means removing obvious identifiers, such as names and addresses, from records. Unstructured means removing doctor’s notes that might include some identifying information, like a patient’s job title.
In December, 200 million de-identified radiology records were processed.
Halamka says the next steps are to upload patient genomic data as well as digital images of 25 million glass pathology slides.
“About 20 petabytes of the pathology images have already been moved. We expect to end up moving about 55 million petabytes,” he said. “A petabyte is a really big number (1,000 terabytes).”
In the first 18 months of the partnership, Google has also kicked off projects such as exploring the use of AI to help physicians develop radiotherapy plans, and worked on how to respond and adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.