Friday Roundup – September 15, 2017

The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy, to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

Apple Continues to Target Health with Flair

If you somehow avoided the flurry of tweets, photos, and articles coming out of the Steve Jobs Theater, Apple hosted their product announcement this week on their shiny new campus. The Apple team introduced the Series 3 Apple Watch, and emphasized the health impact the watch has already had by using consumer feedback.

 

To build on this, Apple has launched a study with Stanford to determine if the Apple watch could accurately identify heart abnormalities like arrhythmias. Though arrhythmias aren’t always threatening, this could be used as a detection and prevention measure for patients at high-risk for heart conditions.

FitBit Teams with Dexcom for Glucose Monitoring

Not to be outdone by the Apple Watch, FitBit announced a collaboration with Dexcom to bring a glucose level display to their Ionic smartwatch. Essentially, the data from Dexcom’s continuous glucose monitoring device will populate onto the Ionic’s screen. The data is already available to be viewed on a smartphone or the Apple Watch.

 

This partnership already showed its value for FitBit as it cause their previously faltering stock to take a jump. Consumers will have to wait a bit though, the new function won’t be available until early 2018.

Tackling Addiction One App at a Time

In a landmark decision, the FDA has approved the marketing of the reSET app to treat substance use disorders (SUDs).

 

“More therapy tools means a greater potential to help improve outcomes, including abstinence, for patients with substance use disorder,” said Carlos Peña, director of the Division of Neurological and Physical Medicine Devices.

 

Created by Pear Therapeutics, the app has a patient-facing and physician-facing interface. In a study across 10 U.S. treatment centers, reSET was found to be effective. About 58 percent of patients who were dependent on stimulants, marijuana, cocaine, or alcohol were abstinent in weeks 9-12 compared to only 29.8 percent of those receiving face-to-face therapy.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Blood-Carrying Drone!

One of the most promising applications of healthcare tech has been better care access for rural areas, but there’s only so much a doctor can do via telehealth. Enter drones.

 

A Johns Hopkins University professor set a record by flying blood samples 160 miles across the Arizona desert and kept them viable. Timothy Amukele, the professor behind the drone, wants to do more trial flights, some with less healthy blood to see glucose levels would impact the blood’s ability to remain viable.

Patent Politics

In an unusual (and possibly never-done-before) move, drugmaker Allergan transferred one of its patents to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe of New York. This legal maneuver would protect the drug in question from any patent disputes because the tribe can claim sovereign immunity.

 

The tribe will lease the patent back to Allergan and in return, the tribe will receive a $13.75 million payment and $15 million in annual royalties while it remains valid. It’s certainly an unorthodox approach and one that has the pharmaceutical community buzzing.

New at angelMD

Stay on top of the latest developments at angelMD: Sign up and you’ll be the first to hear about new startups, syndicates, and events in your area.

Continue reading

Friday Roundup – September 8, 2017

The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy, to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

CAR-T Clinical Trial Causes Lethal Reaction

Following the approval of Novartis’ CAR-T treatment last week, CAR-T made headlines again for a much more sobering reason: Patient death. The first patient in the Cellartis clinical trial died eight days after receiving the therapy due to a toxic reaction to the treatment, resulting in cytokine release syndrome and capillary leak syndrome.

 

The trial has been halted by the FDA and the ordeal has sent the company’s stock plummeting, down 30 percent in pre-market trading.

The Other Side of Zika

The virus which can result in birth defects, including microcephaly, has been used to shrink aggressive tumors in mice. The virus targets stem cells, which is damaging in babies due to the large number of stem cells in their brains. Adult brains, however, have few stem cells, except those which are a part of glioblastomas.

 

Because of the rate at which glioblastoma cells spread and divide, the cancer is difficult to treat with conventional methods like chemotherapy. Human trials for the treatment would not begin for at least another year and a half, but the results from mice are promising enough to generate excitement.

Elementary, My Dear Watson

IBM’s Watson, the AI system touted as the next great cancer innovation, may not be as effective as IBM claims it to be according to an investigative report by STAT. One of the challenges described in the article is the labor required to “teach” Watson. With AI software, Watson must be given information like records and case studies to “learn” what kind of recommendations to make for patient care.

 

There have been no studies or clinical trials about the effectiveness of Watson, which raises a curious issue as the system could directly impact a patient. In addition, many feel the cost of Watson isn’t justified by its performance.

Pen-pointing Patient’s Tumors

A team of scientists at UT-Austin have developed a pen that can detect cancerous cells mid-surgery. The MasSpec Pen identifies cancer 150 times faster than the current method of delivering a sample to a pathologist – that’s only a 10 second wait.

 

The device works by gathering molecules, mixing them with a small amount of water, and sending it through a mass spectrometer. The pen would help ensure surgeons remove a patient’s entire tumor, leaving no pieces behind to re-grow or metastasize.

Did Alphabet Just Create a Health Incubator?

Verily, the life sciences arm of Google parent company Alphabet, opened the doors to a South San Francisco lab space this week. Named the Verily Partner Space, the location already houses two startups, including liquid biopsy company Freenome.

 

A blog published by Verily explained the company “recognizes that [it] need[s] to collaborate with both large, market-leading companies and pioneering start-ups who are working tirelessly to push the boundaries, operating on the edge of technology.”

New at angelMD

Stay on top of the latest developments at angelMD: Sign up and you’ll be the first to hear about new startups, syndicates, and events in your area.

Continue reading

Friday Roundup – September 1, 2017

The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy, to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

FDA Approves Novartis’ CAR-T

In what is being considered a historic and pioneering decision, the FDA approved CAR-T therapy for leukemia treatment in children and young adults. The treatment uses the patient’s own white blood cells and reprograms them to target cancer cells in the body.

 

Marketed as Kymriah, the treatment will cost $475,000, well below the $750,000 some analysts were expecting and the $700,00 price tag the UK is considering. Novartis also stated they will not charge for the treatment if a patient does not respond well to it within a month. Some, however, are critical of this approach citing that one month is not accurate measure and advocating for a period closer to 18 months.

 

The treatment had success in clinical trials, leaving 83% of patients cancer-free after a three-month cycle of the drug, but still had a relapse rate of 25% around the six month mark.

Harvey Causes Public Health Crisis in Houston

Hurricane Harvey captured the nation’s attention this past week as it devastated the Gulf Coast and left thousands displaced. Among the damages is Houston’s renowned Texas Medical Center, including the MD Anderson Cancer Treatment Center, which was forced to cancel treatments due to flooding.

 

Several other facilities had to work around the storm by transferring patients to other hospitals and having staff stay on-site to care for remaining patients.

 

If you would like to donate to help the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, please click here.

An Unusual Origin Story

The backstory of drug discoveries are sometimes a dull affair: hours in a lab, a hardworking team, blah blah blah. But that’s hardly the case for warfarin sodium. Believe it or not, the drug found its beginning in cows that became sick from eating moldy hay.

 

The cows were dying from internal bleeding, their blood wasn’t clotting properly. After several experiments, scientists eventually found that the fungus was reacting with a substance in the hay to form dicoumarol, a blood thinner.

FDA Moves to Stricter Management of Stem Cell Clinics

The FDA seized vaccine vials from a San Diego clinic this week to prevent using them in a treatment, citing that it was “potentially dangerous and unproven.”

 

The vials were full of Vaccinia Virus Vaccine, which is designated for those at high risk for smallpox. The vaccine was to be mixed with cells from patients and injected directly into malignant tumors. The treatment was marketed as stem cell therapy, but not approved as such. The FDA is now launching an investigation into several clinics including the US Stem Cell Clinic.

Hacking the Heart

In even more FDA news, the organization put out a recall notice for a variety of pacemakers over concern they were vulnerable to hacking. Fortunately, patients affected by the recall will not need to get their pacemaker removed, they merely need to update its firmware.

 

In a release from device manufacturer Abbott Medical, executive vice president of Medical Devices Robert Ford stated “All industries need to be constantly vigilant against unauthorized access … we’re working with others in the healthcare sector to ensure we’re proactively addressing common topics to further advance the security of devices and systems.”

New at angelMD

Stay on top of the latest developments at angelMD: Sign up and you’ll be the first to hear about new startups, syndicates, and events in your area.

Continue reading

Friday Roundup – August 25, 2017

The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy, to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

Smile! You’re on Camera

For some, visiting a physician can be overwhelming. Often there is a lot of information to take in, making it difficult for patients, especially older ones, to catch it all during an appointment.

 

To help these patients, one doctor has started videotaping appointments and uploading them to a web platform to be reviewed at the patient’s convenience. The recordings are annotated to make it easier for patients to locate the information they are looking for. Studies on the practice found it led to patients being able to better “retain and understand” aspects of their condition.

 

Considering some patients already record without physician consent, normalizing this method could be beneficial to all parties.

Securing your DNA

The 21st century has brought a host of security concerns. The rise of new technology led to new data sources and new vulnerabilities for personal information. Now, even perhaps your most personal information is vulnerable: your DNA.

 

In medical testing a subject’s entire genome is often not needed. Now, the unnecessary pieces can be encrypted for your privacy. The news is timely, coming on the heels of a UW research team’s frightening accomplishment earlier this month: the ability to hack into your DNA data.

Google Tackles Mental Health

Google is implementing a new feature which will ask users who search for “depression” if they would like to take a clinically developed questionnaire to determine if they are depressed. The tool is the product of a partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

 

The short questionnaire, called the PHQ-9, is a short survey that will appear at the bottom of the “knowledge box” on mobile Google searches for depression. The new feature is not meant to replace clinician consultation, but help a user navigate to that by getting a better idea of their condition beforehand.

Human are Pitchy Creatures

A new study published in Science has determined that humans have specific neurons dedicated to decipher pitch patterns when someone is speaking.

 

They found altering the pitch pattern in a sentence often changed the meaning for the person listening. For example, if the sentence is modified to have a higher pitch at the end, the person could interpret it as a question instead of a statement.

New Pathway to Anxiety Discovered

Researchers in Utah found that when the Lef1 gene was removed from mice and zebrafish, it impacted the anxiety level of the animals.

 

The gene affects the development of neurons in the hypothalamus related to stress and anxiety. The fish and mice exhibited symptoms of anxiety like slow growth and reluctance to explore new environments. The fact that removing Lef1 impacted both mice and zebrafish indicated it may do so in other species as well despite other biologic differences.

New at angelMD

 

Stay on top of the latest developments at angelMD: Sign up and you’ll be the first to hear about new startups, syndicates, and events in your area.

Continue reading

Friday Roundup – August 18, 2017

The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy, to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

 

The Apple Watch: Coming to Providers Near You

Health insurance company Aetna and Apple reportedly held meetings to discuss distribution of the Apple Watch to millions of people with Aetna coverage. Aetna already offers the wearable to its employees, and is looking to expand the program.

 

Apple has been slowly but surely entering the healthcare market. In June, they launched multiple Apple Watch digital health research projects with Stanford and announced plans for the iPhone to track health records. This partnership could strike a hard blow to FitBit, who Apple has already passed in the wearable market.

Google Snags Seattle Health Startup

Wearables schmearables. Founded by UW professor Shwetak Patel, Senosis Health was developing technology to turn smartphones into the ultimate health monitoring device.

 

Senosis’ app portfolio would use metrics to diagnose a range of health indicators like pulmonary function or hemoglobin counts. The acquisition shows Apple isn’t the only Silicon Valley giant branching out to healthcare. Google has taken several steps forward in the space, including parent company Alphabet creating health subsidiary Verily.

Telehealth on the Rise

A survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health found that 96 percent of employers plan to offer telemedicine to employees, a stat up six percentage points from last year. The survey notes that companies are turning to telemedicine because of the need to reduce rising healthcare costs.

 

In addition to businesses offering telehealth, schools have also started to implement the service. Most programs are in addition to a school nurse and help improve the care and experience for children who are chronically ill.

A Startup is Taking on America’s Healthcare System

Aledade sprung onto the scene in 2014 with an ambitious goal: Improve care quality while simultaneously reducing cost. Three years and a feature in the New York Times later, Aledade has been making good on its promise.

According to reporter Farhad Manjoo, two primary care facilities that have worked with Aledade have limited wasteful spending with the help of the company’s software which gives providers’  a “helicopter” view of a patient’s care journey.

Further Progress in Cancer Detection with Liquid Biopsies

Scientists from John Hopkins have demonstrated evidence for “liquid biopsies” to detect cancer in patients. The biopsy is similar to a blood test and the diagnosis is made on the presence of cancer tumor DNA that leaks into the bloodstream.

 

The test was successful in detecting breast, colon, lung, and ovarian cancer – the four which account for the majority of cancer deaths. Since early detection is the key to treating cancer effectively, a test like this that could be done routinely would be highly beneficial to the patient and physician.

New at angelMD

  • Don’t miss the chance to invest in Fibralign and ECOM Medical. If you’re interested in Fibralign, find more info here. More information about ECOM is available here.
  • Avexia, VERT, and OTTO Health are just three of the many startups to join the angelMD community. Check out their profiles to see how they’re changing the face of healthcare.

Stay on top of the latest developments at angelMD: Sign up and you’ll be the first to hear about new startups, syndicates, and events in your area.

Continue reading