Life Science stories you may have missed – 01/23/20

Life Science stories you may have missed – 01/23/20

Coronavirus and “shoe-leather epidemiology”

Wired’s Megan Molteni has a way of pulling readers inside her stories with colorful and pointed observations. In her piece on 1/21, notes that despite considerable technology advancement since SARS “figuring out how new diseases spread is still an exercise in shoe-leather epidemiology.” Viral DNA analysis is – and perhaps always will be – only one part of an epidemiological picture.

Read more in Wired


Precision medicine mustn’t be about drugs alone

On its surface, Vinay Prasad’s piece in Nature is a story of two ships passing in the night. His ship, enlightened public health policy, is often overshadowed by the bright lights of blockbuster drugs, at least in popular media.  The “concepts” of population health and social determinants of health are esoteric by comparison. But these two ships aren’t on different courses. Medicine isn’t about drugs alone, nor should precision medicine, and Vinay is on to something worth closer scrutiny.

Read Vinay’s piece in Nature


Cardiff University scientists discover T-cell receptor that recognizes and kills multiple cancers

On Monday, researchers from Cardiff University published a study in Nature Immunology about the discovery of a new T-cell receptor (TCR) that “exhibits pan-cancer cell recognition” and could make a patient’s T-cells capable of killing autologous melanoma without affecting healthy cells. The research is still early, but the potential for “pan-cancer, pan-population immunotherapies” to improve health outcomes and health economics is significant.

See study in Nature Immunology


HIT headlines you may have missed

HIT headlines you may have missed

AI investment by health systems continues to grow

Administrative process improvements across healthcare are desperately needed, and more health systems are investing in artificial intelligence to help facilitate change.

As Healthcare IT News reporter Nathan Eddy points out, many in the healthcare ecosystem are already well on their way. An October Optum survey of 500 U.S. health industry leaders from hospitals, health plans, life sciences and employers, found 22% of respondents are in the late stages of AI strategy implementation.

As AI benefits accrue across the healthcare ecosystem, real savings are possible. According to an Accenture report, key clinical health AI applications could potentially create $150 billion in annual savings for the U.S. healthcare economy by 2026.

Read more in Healthcare IT News


Healthcare makes good on addressing social needs

In 2019, the phrase “social determinants” dominated headlines. Fortunately, this wasn’t a case of all talk, no action.

Steve Ross Johnson of Modern Healthcare recently wrote, “From affordable housing initiatives to funding economic revitalization of impoverished communities, the year saw industry leaders make some of their biggest investments yet toward addressing socioeconomic factors tied to improving patient outcomes.”

Some suspect that swift progress in addressing the social needs of patients through targeted interventions may be a response to a reimbursement landscape that’s encouraging providers to take on more risk.

Learn more about strides made in 2010 in Modern Healthcare


Tech Giants Shake Industry with Big Moves in 2019 

The nation’s biggest technology companies, including Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, all made significant healthcare plays in 2019, and this shows these nontraditional competitors are here to stay.

Apple’s consumer- and enterprise-facing health projects are especially notable. Business Insider recently reported that Apple has even more planned for 2020, a sign of its deliberate and aggressive strategy. In fact, some industry projections have Apple’s healthcare division generating $313 billion in revenue by 2027.

Get a glimpse into what Apple has planned in the new year at Business Insider


Healthcare provider stories you may have missed – 12/18/19

Healthcare provider stories you may have missed – 12/18/19

Providers Say Price Transparency Rule Violates First Amendment

Earlier this month, hospital groups gave a glimpse into their legal strategy as they fight back against the Trump administration’s new price transparency rule. In the lawsuit, providers argue that the disclosure would be compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment and that the order goes beyond the statutory intent of the Affordable Care Act. The groups are also asking for an expedited decision, saying hospitals could otherwise spend needless time and resources preparing for a rule that may be invalidated by the court.

Check out the Wall Street Journal to learn more about what’s at stake


A Sobering Look at the Hospital E.R.

Yale New Haven Hospital E.R. doctor Gina Siddiqui offers an unfiltered view of the challenges facing emergency physicians and the patients they treat. In this New York Times piece, she writes: “We tell ourselves the E.R. is meant only to stabilize patients, that someone else will handle the rest. But the problems I punt in the E.R. are also punted by the hospital’s doctors upstairs and by primary care doctors outside. No matter where I send patients, these gaping holes in care fester, like bed sores tunneling to bone.”

Read the full story at The New York Times


Cost vs. Care

Interesting new insights from Gallup show that Americans are putting off medical treatment in record numbers because of cost. Highlights from the study include:

  • A third of U.S. adults say their family couldn’t afford care in past year
  • One in four say care was deferred for a serious medical condition
  • Lower-income adults and Democrats most likely to report delayed care

Dive deeper into the data with The Washington Post


Predictions for the Future of Healthcare

What can we expect to see next year in healthcare? As this decade winds down, two healthcare investors from Venrock discuss how the election will influence policy, the future of primary care in hospitals and why they think big tech (Google, Amazon and Apple) will deprioritize healthcare disruption to deal with other more pressing issues.

Check out all the predictions in Fortune




HIT headlines you may have missed

Medtech stories you may have missed – 12/12/19

AI investment continues to grow, but barriers remain

A new report from HealthLeaders found 22% of healthcare organizations are taking advantage of AI capabilities. While this number may seem small, it’s actually up eight points over the last two years, showing providers and payers alike are increasing investments in analytics software. Despite this growth, insufficient funding continues to be a key barrier to adoption, along with insufficient analytics skills. A separate report from IDC FutureScape shows 30 percent of health and life science organizations’ business and clinical decisions will be informed by AI insights by 2023, “revolutionizing the future of work” in one of three health systems.


Health tech is changing the healthcare game for Boomers

As Baby Boomers continue to redefine aging gracefully, they’re becoming more and more inclined to embrace technology that enables active, healthy lifestyles. Because of this, new devices are hitting the active-aging industry market that will help the elderly live longer and happier lives. As Serenity Gibbons recently wrote in her Forbes article, “connected health is changing the healthcare game for Boomers.” From high-tech hearing aids, to less invasive heart devices, to virtual reality headsets that help combat loneliness, medical technology is changing the way seniors age and changing the active-aging landscape. As thousands of companies that manufacture devices are making a play in the senior market, the industry is expected to triple in the next three years reaching nearly $30 billion.


Voice technology continues making (sound) waves in healthcare

Amazon recently announced its new feature that allows Alexa owners to set up medication reminders and request voice-controlled refills of their prescriptions. With this announcement, voice technology continues to emerge as the future of self-service in healthcare, enabling a more human experience for patients that simplifies otherwise complicated interfaces and processes. Medication and disease management and medication adherence remains the most promising use of voice technology. However, in the future, the technology could be leveraged as a diagnostic tool to detect abnormalities in tone, inflection and breathing patterns.


The revolution in diabetes monitoring

If the 60% growth of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices in 2019 is any indication, 2020 is poised to be revolutionary for technology-enabled diabetes monitoring. Through the use of smartphones and smartwatches, CGM has become more mainstream, transforming diabetes control for users. As the market booms, so too does the competition among makers of CGM devices. In fact, MedTech Dive recently ranked the head-to-head battle between Abbott and Dexcom for leadership of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) as the top rivalry of the year. Other competitors such as Medtronic and Senseonics are also looking for a play in the market in 2020.


Life Science stories you may have missed – 01/23/20

Life Science stories you may have missed

Despite challenges, experts predict gene therapy market will continue to grow

At the recent event “A Look Ahead at Biotech in 2020,” experts commented on the challenges ahead for the field of gene therapy. As Alex Philippidis reports for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, new payment models are needed to provide clarity around reimbursements for new treatments. From a science perspective, the panel raised the concern that some genes are too large to be packed into vectors and infused into patients. And while manufacturers are making progress building new facilities or partnering with CDMOs to create capacity to keep up with demand, manufacturing bottlenecks remain a challenge.

Despite the hurdles, the experts are bullish. “The fact that we’re talking about curing some of these diseases that are really horrible diseases, fatal, in kids often, it’s pretty remarkable when you think about it,” said STAT reporter Adam Feuerstein.

Read the full story.


One pill, once a month

Researchers have long tried to merge the benefits of long-acting contraceptives with the convenience of an oral pill, Megan Molteni writes for WIRED. Several years ago, scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MIT began testing a once-a-month oral birth control pill that could have broad appeal not only for the millions of women who take daily birth control pills, but also for women in developing countries who currently don’t have access to reliable family planning options. That’s what Boston-biotech Lyndra Therapeutics hopes to accomplish with its development program to bring the once-monthly oral contraceptive out of the lab and into the hands of women worldwide.  

Read the full story.


“Anti-Theranos” gets FDA approval for blood test

Forbes contributor Peter Cohan contends that Israeli startup Sight Diagnostics is well-positioned to take on industry heavy-weight Sysmex, a $2.7B Japanese manufacturer of blood testing machines, and centralized testing labs such as LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics with its now FDA-approved OLO analyzer. “Unlike Theranos – the defunct Palo Alto company that claimed it could conduct over 200 blood tests from a single drop of blood – Sight’s product has been vetted by scientists,” he writes. The technology is backed by clinical researchers who say its performance is comparable to bigger, more complicated analyzers. Cohan predicts OLO will see initial update in small clinics and hospital departments but sees potential for Sight Diagnostics to corner a larger pocket of the market.

Read the Forbes column. 


HIT headlines you may have missed

Recent HIT headlines you may have missed

From Chanel Benoit, Account Director at Greenough Brand Storytellers

Facebook takes aim at preventative care 

Facebook is making a targeted push into healthcare with the launch of a new tool that encourages users to use the platform to stay on top of routine health tasks such as getting flu shots and cancer screenings.

Following public controversy around its privacy practices, Facebook’s success will depend on its ability to regain the trust of consumers, no easy task with information as personal as one’s health history. 

Get the full story at STAT


Alphabet buys FitBit

Earlier this month, Alphabet, Google’s parent, announced its intention to buy FitBit, valuing the smartwatch maker at more than $2 billion. CNBC reported that the acquisition pits Alphabet against fellow tech giant Apple in the wearable fitness tracking arena.

Fitbit’s stock surged more than 30% following the announcement – good news considering the company has been losing ground to Apple’s smartwatch for some time.

Learn more about the deal in CNBC


Provider orgs most likely target for data breaches

Experts predict that data breaches in healthcare will cost the industry as much as $4 billion by the end of 2019, with no signs of slowing down in 2020.

According to Black Book’s annual report on data security, provider organizations such as hospitals and physician practices are the most likely targets. In fact, so far in 2019, providers have the been victims of nearly four out of five breaches.

The takeaway: Providers need to invest much more aggressively in protecting their information assets. While hospital systems are making modest increases in investments (about six percent in 2019), a whopping 92% of physician organizations still lack full-time security staff.

Get all the info in Health Data Management


WSJ reports on “Project Nightingale,” sparking privacy concerns

More health news out of Google this month! The Wall Street Journal reported that the company is engaged with one of the nation’s largest health care systems, Ascension, with a mission to collect the personal health information of millions of people across more than 20 states.

Reportedly, the project launched in secret in 2018. The data involved includes lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, amounting to a near-complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth.

Patients and doctors alike are understandably uneasy, but the companies insist the project follows federal health law and includes robust protections for patient data.

Read the full story at WSJ