Life science stories you may have missed – April 2021

Life science stories you may have missed – April 2021

When vaccines don’t work

Blood cancer survivors. Organ transplant recipients. Cancer patients on certain drugs. Patients with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. People over 80. These are all populations that may not mount an immune response to COVID-19 after being vaccinated. According to The New York Times, numerous studies show that vaccines may be less effective in people who are immunocompromised. Some clinicians suggest routinely measuring antibody response in people who have not produced protective antibodies and may be candidates for monoclonal antibodies treatment or a third vaccine dose.

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Getting the vax facts straight

As Michael S. Kinch, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, writes for Technology Networks,  “If there are fewer infected people, the number of mutations (and variants) will proportionately decrease.” While some experts say we are near reaching herd immunity, Kinch argues between lack of immune response in some individuals and others who choose not to be vaccinated, reaching 80% immunization will be challenging. He calls on readers to arm themselves with the facts and have “honest and construction conversations with those who are hesitant or opposed to vaccination.”

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Testing is here to stay

Until the majority of the population is vaccinated, we’ll need regular testing – but the way we test, and who we test, may look different. One area of continued need: schools. “Testing builds confidence and comfort in going back to school,” Mara Aspinall, an advisor to the Rockefeller Foundation, told Slate.

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Healthcare stories you may have missed – April 2021

Healthcare stories you may have missed – April 2021

Covid-19 cases are rising once again, threatening to send more people to the hospital even as vaccinations accelerate nationwide. This week, CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned the U.S. is facing “impending doom” as daily cases grow by at least 5% in 30 states and the District of Columbia. So what’s behind the uptick? Leading public health experts have warned since late February that infections could pick back up again amid the rise of virus variants, but they aren’t the only culprit. More Americans, tired of pandemic restrictions and reassured by lifesaving vaccines, are traveling for spring break and some state leaders are pulling back on restrictions.

Walensky’s warning comes as the White House touts “significant progress” toward President Joe Biden’s fresh goal of administering 200 million shots in his first 100 days in office. The U.S. has a weekly average of 2.7 million shots per day, but vaccine hesitancy continues in many communities. The New York Times reports on one nursing home’s mission to vaccinate its reluctant staff. In the piece, Tina Sandri, CEO of Forest Hills of DC, changed her approach. She had been holding “huddles” with different departments to explain the science of the vaccines, but now, instead of continuing to load people with facts, she focused on asking them: What information do you need? What is your concern? The result: 79% of Sandri’s staff was vaccinated by March.

Last month, healthcare providers also saw the damaging results of a Wall Street Journal examination on the newly implemented Hospital Transparency Rule. According to the law, hospitals must publish their previously confidential prices in an attempt to make the industry more consumer friendly. But reporters for the Journal found that hundreds of hospitals embedded code in their websites that prevented Google and other search engines from displaying pages with the price lists. Foley Hoag attorney and Greenough client, Thomas Barker, told the Journal, “They’re taking an active step to make something harder to find. I would say it violates the spirit of the rule.”

Finally, in an essay published in Stat, R. Sean Morrison M.D., geriatric and palliative medicine physician and professor and chair of the Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, details the reasons why palliative care teams are underutilized despite studies showing improved outcomes for patients and families. He also outlines how to overcome financial barriers for hospitals as well as how to eliminate confusion between hospice and palliative care.

Life science stories you may have missed – April 2021

Life Science stories you may have missed – March 2021

The U.K.’s new test-and-sequence strategy

 Despite experts’ pleas for increased COVID-19 sequencing to identify and track new variants, most countries still lag in sequencing efforts. In the U.K., however, sequencing rates are not only significantly higher, the country has also adopted a new guideline requiring all positive samples from travelers visiting from “red list” countries to be sequenced and tracked. Read more…

Progress on a vaccine for children

While global vaccination rates have been creeping up, Moderna has just started enrolling participants in its KidCOVE study to evaluate safety of the vaccine in children aged 6 months to 12 years old. Read more…

Is CAR-M the new CAR-T?

Animal studies have shown when a CAR is attached to a macrophage it can “enter the tumor’s environment like a Trojan horse,” Jason Mast writes for Endpoints News, to attack the tumor and also convert other macrophages into cancer killers. Now, a new trial is testing CAR-macrophages, or CAR-M, in humans. Read more…

 

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – November 2020

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – November 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic was the backdrop for this year’s presidential election, triggering important questions about the future of U.S. healthcare. Despite the uncertainty that still exists today, healthcare IT leaders have a strong grasp on the issues and technologies that should take priority in the next four years.

Fierce Healthcare reported on the key issues that healthcare leaders would like to see the federal government take immediate action on. Beyond improving the nation’s public health data infrastructure, the article highlighted improving patient identification, solidifying telehealth reimbursement protocols, advancing interoperability and strengthening cybersecurity in hospitals. All these issues have been exasperated by the pandemic which has created more urgency in addressing them. 

Additionally, an Optum survey of 500 healthcare execs revealed that more than half (56%) are accelerating or expanding their artificial intelligence (AI) deployment timelines in response to the pandemic, demonstrating the importance of this business tool during the most stressful times.

In other AI-related news, a group of researchers at MIT developed an AI model that can detect asymptomatic COVID-19 cases by listening to subtle differences in coughs between healthy people and infected people. The researchers are testing their AI in clinical trials and have already started the process of seeking approval from the FDA for it to be used as a screening tool.

2021 will hopefully look very different from 2020 from a public health perspective, and beyond taking the input of healthcare leaders to heart, the federal government has an opportunity to support broad adoption of advanced technologies that can aid in the ongoing battle against COVID-19.

Life science stories you may have missed – April 2021

Life sciences stories you may have missed – November 2020

Parking fees should not be a hurdle to healthcare

“Even getting to a hospital or clinic for radiation, chemotherapy sessions, or regular checkups in itself can be a challenge for some patients. For those relying on public transport or in rural areas, access to public transit or the cost of filling up a tank of gas can pose hurdles to cancer care.” In an article for STAT, Priyanka Runwal covers some of the factors that contribute to higher rates of mortality among Black women diagnosed with cancer.

Fast-tracking vaccine development

The Washington Post continues to use graphics to break down the science behind vaccine development. The paper’s latest update tracks 200 vaccines, from 170+ experimental vaccines in pre-clinical development to 10 vaccines currently in Phase 3 clinical trials.

For a quick primer on the three technologies making the compressed timeline to a vaccine possible, check out this article from Michael White, assistant professor of genetics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, on genetically engineered viruses, DNA vaccines and mRNA vaccines.

CRISPR cautions

New York Times reporter Katherine Wu recently covered a study published in the journal Cell that found CRISPR-Cas9 can cause serious side effects in the cells of human embryos. The research team found the gene-editing tool “appeared to wreak a genetic havoc in about half the specimens that the researchers examined.” The results underscore what scientists have been saying since Chinese “CRISPR babies scientist” He Jiankui sent shockwaves across the industry: it’s too soon to use genome editing in human embryos.

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – 10/8/20

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – 10/8/20

While the healthcare industry has experienced more than its fair share of challenges amid the coronavirus epidemic, there are some bright spots worth noting. Often, where there are challenges there is also ripe opportunity for out-of-the-box thinking and innovation.

We’re only three quarters of the way through this year, but 2020 has already set a new annual record for the venture capital funding being pumped into the digital health space. Fierce Healthcare reported that companies in the health tech industry have collectively raised $9.4 billion so far this year, topping the previous record of $8.2 billion set in all of 2018.

Additionally, Frost & Sullivan revealed several global trends generating growth opportunities from COVID-19. According to the analysis, robotics, advanced data analytics, IoT, privacy and security, and business model innovation are all critical success factors for growth. Healthcare IT News has all the details.

Last but certainly not least is a CB Insights report suggesting technology giants Amazon, Apple and Google are further penetrating the healthcare industry by way of health insurance. Becker’s Hospital Review lays out four trends to know and provides a breakdown of partnerships these companies have already made in the insurance industry.