Nearly two years after the FDA shut the door on 23andMe‘s direct marketing of genetic testing, it is now back in the market with FDA clearance. The new Personal Genome Service (PGS) now meets FDA standards–and is now $199 where it was previously $99. It is as before a saliva-based test that in about two months, provides that person with an online report. There are multiple types, for instance the carrier status test on 36 inherited conditions, including cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia. The company is also bolstered by closing a $115 million round this month and in January a partnership with Pfizer to sell the company its Research Portal aggregated, anonymized data. Earlier this year, FDA cleared in Class II their Bloom Syndrome test [TTA 20 Feb] and late last year resumed DTC test marketing in the UK. Mobihealthnews also includes a helpful timeline of 23andMe’s troubles and recovery.
mHealth Summit this year had an abundance of digital health company news announcements, not only from the conference but also timed to coincide with the heightened interest around it. Your Editor looks over the most interesting of them, briefly. Thanks to Ashley Gold of Politico’s Morning eHealth (@ashleygold, daily reports archived here), Stephanie Baum of MedCityNews (@stephlbaum) and Anne Zieger of Healthcare Dive for their coverage and their company in the press room!
Partners HealthCare researches, Validic expands, AliveCor and Omron ally, Happtique sells out, Doctor on Demand is telemental, Orange goes dental, VA Innovation Rocks
- Partners HealthCare/Center for Connected Health’s cHealth Compass will use panel and other research to help companies, device manufacturers, startups and investors determine what end users–consumer and provider–want out of personal health tech. Focus groups, interviews and usability testing will help to determine product design, evaluation, assess applications and feasibility as well as interim/final product testing. Partners is already organizing in Massachusetts a 2,000-patient database which rewards participants $50 on registration and $110 annually to be in a monthly survey panel. cHealth Compass website, BetaBoston (Boston Globe)
- Health data connector/aggregator Validic demonstrates the attractiveness of Anything Big Data on with new clients including the Everyday Health consumer/professional website and the adidas Group’s sport and fitness apps. Recently they added WebMD, Pfizer, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), NexJ Health and MedHost to their client list. The company claims that their ‘ecosystem’–probably the most popular buzzword at this year’s conference–of healthcare companies and tech developers now reaches over 100 million people with devices such as Omron, Alere, Qardio, Telcare, Jawbone and Withings. Release
- AliveCor accentuates the retail with Omron. AliveCor, which developed the first FDA-cleared ECG for smartphones and gained clearance for an atrial fibrillation algorithm in August, is collaborating with Japanese device manufacturer Omron on developing its retail presence. Omron’s devices are available in major drugstores such as Walgreens, RiteAid and Walmart so certainly AliveCor is due to benefit. AliveCor is also part of a revived QualcommLife (more on this in an upcoming article) Release, Mobihealthnews (Your Editor had the pleasure of meeting at last AliveCor’s CMO and founder Dr. Dave Albert.)
- Happtique sold to SocialWellth. Last year’s floor talk was about Happtique’s first class of certified apps and a security expert’s untimely discovery of major flaws (more…)
Bayer HealthCare AG’s Grants4Apps program announced its support of five startups that, in their words, will support improved outcomes or pharmaceutical processes. Unlike companies like GE or Pfizer, Bayer is outright granting a substantial amount of cash to each–€ 50,000–and offering space plus 3 1/2 months of mentoring in their Berlin HQ in return for the usual small equity stake. Of 70 applications, five were granted to European companies which will have their Demo Day on 1 December:
- Cortrium: their C3 device is a state-of-the-art wearable tech sensor for clinical-quality hospital wireless monitoring of health data including electrocardiogram (ECG), body surface temperature, respiratory rate, and body posture/physical activity. Blood oxygen and blood pressure to come in 2015. (Denmark, spun off from Nokia R&D)
- PharmAssistant: self-management tool for chronic disease patients, consisting of a smart pill container and a remote cloud-based monitoring service (Portugal) (more…)
“This acquisition will allow Medtronic to reach more patients, in more ways and in more places,” Medtronic Chairman and CEO Omar Ishrak
Cover the Earth? While the healthy Medtronic offer ($42.9 billion in cash and stock) for Ireland-headquartered Covidien plc is not a ‘digital health deal’, it does point to Medtronic’s strategy which includes digital health. There is of course the obvious: growth by acquisition and integration. Acquisitions require cash, and the highly controversial change of domicile to Ireland via ‘tax inversion’ will fatten the exchequer in two ways. First is through the lower overall Irish corporate tax versus the 35 percent US tax, one of the highest in the world. Second is much more flexibility in repatriating plentiful foreign earnings at lower Irish corporate rates rather than the high US rates which Medtronic has avoided. Third is increasing dividends, which can drive up stock price and investor interest. Of interest to the latter is also that Covidien adds horizontal (and global) competitive strength to Medtronic in the clinical area–surgical, vascular, respiratory and wound care.
More Ways-More Places. Not just staples and sutures, Covidien has developed its own advanced in-hospital mobile patient monitoring in Vital Sync as well as several hospital monitoring devices in their Nellcor line. In addition to technology collaboration, the next point of integration could then be with Medtronic’s post-acute telehealth devices from Cardiocom, purchased less than one year ago. We noted at the time that it gave Medtronic entreé into the “chronic condition management continuum– not only into telehealth via Cardiocom’s devices and hubs, but also their clinical and care management systems.”
Approval will take time. Both the US and UK, through various regulatory agencies, scuppered the Pfizer-AstraZeneca deal on similar tax domiciling and competitive grounds. If it does go through, there will be a lot of reorganization. But while it digests, this Editor will be watching Medtronic for its usual pattern of making smaller ‘more ways/more places’ deals in the interim with an eye to diversifying past US-taxable medical devices. One pointer is their just-announced partnering with Sanofi to develop drug delivery-medical device combinations and care management services for diabetes patients (MedCityNews).
Related reading: Medtronic hints at more acquisitions following $43 billion Covidien deal (MedCityNews); The Medtronic, Covidien Inversion Deal Is More About Dividends Than Tax (Forbes); Medtronic agrees to buy Covidien for $42.9b in cash, stock (Boston Globe); Medtronic’s $43B Covidien deal—and Irish tax move (CNBC)
A development that deserves more attention is the use of ‘gamification’ in rehab. In one program, it’s using a combination of incentives, brain stimulation and robotics. The popular Candy Crush Saga game uses a moving candy target, rewards (to higher levels) and reduced reaction times at the harder levels. The Manhasset, New York-based Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at North Shore-LIJ Health System is testing this notion with rehab for paralyzed limbs. Instead of concentrating on training other limbs to compensate for the paralyzed ones, the Non-Invasive Stroke Recovery Lab program focuses on gaining more movement in the affected limbs. Using robots to move the limb at first, then sensing when the patient is moving them on their own, they gradually train the brain to move the limb for whatever motion can be achieved. Therapists use these programs with patients to gain the “just-right” amount of challenge to maintain motivation and attention. According to their website, several programs are being tested using devices for the wrist, shoulder-elbow, hand and an anti-gravity one for the shoulder. A fifth one is in early development to improve gait post-stroke. Also in test is coupling this with trans-cranial direct current stimulation. mHealthNews. Feinstein Institute and researcher (Bruce Volpe) website.
Drug manufacturer Pfizer is also testing gamification for a different sort of rehabilitation–using Evo Challenge from Akili Interactive Labs in determining the status of and improving the abilities of those with cognitive impairments, Alzheimer’s disease (with and without amyloid in the brain) and ADHD. The game, which involves navigation around obstacles and rewards, is designed to improve the impaired processing of cognitive interference, a/k/a distractions. MedCityNews
You wait for a cohort study to come along for ages, then suddenly two come along within a week of each other…of the same intervention, although with apparently different conclusions. The second paper, entitled “Analysis of the Impact of the Birmingham OwnHealth Program on Secondary Care Utilization and Cost: A Retrospective Cohort Study”, is published online in the Journal of Telemedicine and e-Health, ahead of print, with lead author Liv Solvår Nymark. (Our post on the previously-reviewed paper, whose lead author was Adam Steventon is here).
The Steventon paper found that the OwnHealth intervention “did not lead to the expected reductions in hospital admissions or secondary care costs over 12 months, and could have led to increases” whereas the Nymark paper “found difference in costs constituted (more…)