Digital Ten: Digital health news you need to know (21 February 2020)

FirstWord MedTech's Digital Ten is a fortnightly round-up of the 10 most read and noteworthy headlines related to digital health, including industry deals, alliances, collaborations, innovations and R&D news.

 

Abbott’s Libre CGM scores another digital diabetes alliance

Insulet, the company behind the Omnipod tubeless wearable insulin delivery system, is partnering with Abbott to integrate the latter’s Freestyle Libre continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) sensor with its new-generation Omnipod Horizon automated insulin delivery (AID) system onto a digital platform. The companies will make their respective technologies compatible so they can be paired and share CGM and insulin dosing data on a digital platform. Abbott has similar partnerships with Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, in which the CGM tech will be developed to share data with the drug companies’ connected insulin pens. Abbott also counts Bigfoot Biomedical and Tandem Diabetes Care among its insulin delivery partners. 

Here’s our take on what makes Abbott such an attractive partner to these companies - The Wider View: Why Abbott's diabetes dance card just gets fuller and fuller

 

Senseonics to integrate long-term CGM with Companion Medical's insulin pen

It’s not just the big players in the diabetes market that are collaborating. Small-cap, NYSE-listed Senseonics has partnered up with privately-held Companion Medical to integrate glucose data from its Eversense CGM system with Companion’s InPen, an insulin injector pen with a smartphone interface. While Abbott’s Freestyle Libre is indicated for 14-days continuous wear, Eversense can be worn for up to 90 days, with the sensor implanted just under the skin and a smart transmitter on top. Companion also has a similar data integration partnership with large CGM player, Dexcom, that was forged in June last year; this looks to be the first collaboration of its type for Senseonics. 

 

One Drop brings in new talent as it steps up consumer focus for diabetes platform

One Drop, which offers a comprehensive digital diabetes management platform that includes its own glucose meter and mobile app, has expanded its executive team as it deepens its focus on the consumer market. The company has brought in Rachel Yaps Martens - the former head of US diabetes integrated care at Sanofi, one of the three biggest insulin makers - as senior VP of consumer solutions and commercial strategy. She will be responsible for driving the growth of One Drop's consumer user base. The firm has also appointed Gina Merchant VP of behavioral design and science, where she will apply her years’ of experience designing digital solutions for chronic disease management to One Drop’s products. She will incorporate behavioral science into the core user experience and bring data-driven behavioral interventions to One Drop's offering, as well as work on evidence generation.

 

IBM’s latest tool helps to reduce costs of clinical trials

IBM Watson Health continues to expand its life sciences portfolio with the addition of a new digital tool, IBM Study Advance, designed to help companies reduce wasted time and costs when running clinical trials. Recruitment is a significant pain point in clinical trials and the Study Advance programme gives users automated access to IBM's real-world healthcare database, and the analytical tools to assess the impact of inclusion and exclusion criteria on the eligible patient population. IBM Watson Health’s managing director EMEA, Mark O’Herlihy, believes that life sciences companies still need to be more proactive when it comes to addressing issues with trial recruitment, which is where a tool like Study Advance could come in. While the industry and healthcare providers are keen on adopting technology like AI to optimise processes and improve clinical outcomes, they are still in the discovery phase of what AI can do, he told FirstWord MedTech. Here’s more insight from O’Herlihy’s on what impact AI has really made on healthcare so far and what could be achieved in the future - Medtech Leaders: IBM Watson Health's Mark O'Herlihy on the true impact of AI in healthcare

 

Viz.ai expands stroke clinical trial platform with new algorithms

Like IBM Watson Health, Viz.ai, the specialist in stroke detection artificial intelligence, has expanded its Viz RECRUIT platform which aims to support patient enrollment in clinical trials. Viz RECRUIT uses AI to automatically identify potential patients for clinical trials and is currently being deployed in the AI ENRICH study to speed up recruitment and increase randomisation of patient population. This is a feasibility trial to assess the performance of Viz RECRUIT software in identifying subjects symptomatic of an intracerebral haemorrhage (ICH). Viz.ai said it has added new features to the software that not only detects but also quantifies ICH volumes; detects and quantifies aneurysms on a CT angiogram and also calculates the volume of an acute ischemic brain that has already infarcted or is irrevocably destined to infarct regardless of reperfusion. 

 

Merck and Indiana Uni scientists develop algorithms for predicting dementia

US researchers have developed and tested machine learning algorithms that use data from electronic medical records to identify patients who may be at risk for developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s. The researchers from Regenstrief Institute, Indiana University and Merck gathered data on patients from the Indiana Network for Patient Care; the information used to train the algorithms related to patient prescriptions and diagnoses, as well as medical notes, which were found to be the most valuable in helping determine dementia risk. The next step of the research is to deploy these algorithms in real-life clinics to test if they help identify more true cases of dementia as well as to learn how they impact a patient’s willingness to follow up on the results.

 

Alzheimer’s Research UK launches project to use wearables for dementia detection 

The dementia research charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK, has launched a global initiative to leverage the use of wearables in detecting neurodegenerative disease. It will team up with leading organisations in data science, clinical and neurodegenerative research to collect and analyse clinical and digital health data such as sleep, gait and speech patterns, to develop early digital biomarkers - or "fingerprints" - of diseases like Alzheimer’s. These fingerprints can then be detected through the use of wearable technologies, such as smart watches. The project seeks to secure at least £67 million ($86.9 million) over the first six years, with aim to attract up to a total of £100 million ($129.6 million) in total by 2030 to build and trial its diagnostic device on a large scale. Initial funds towards the EDoN (Early Detection of Neurodegenerative Disease) project have already been secured from Bill Gates and Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation. 

 

AI, brain scans may help predict antidepressant response in major depression

A study published in Nature Biotechnology has found that a machine-learning algorithm has the potential to predict whether an antidepressant will work based on a patient's brain activity. The study included 309 participants with major depression who were randomly assigned to placebo or the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor sertraline. Researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure electrical activity in the participants' cortex before treatment was initiated. The algorithm was applied to the EEG data to predict which patients would benefit from sertraline within two months, with results validated in three additional patient groups.

 

Medtronic buys digital surgical simulation specialist to enhance robotic platform

As Medtronic expands its surgical robotic offering, first through Mazor’s systems and soon with its new Hugo soft tissue robot, the company has added a complementary digital surgical simulation platform through the acquisition of Digital Surgery. The London, UK-based company has developed simulation programmes that incorporate artificial intelligence, data and analytics, for over 200 procedures across 17 medical specialties. Medtronic said the acquisition will help speed up its "strategy to provide AI and data within laparoscopic and robotic-assisted surgery," while it also "has applicability for the [company's] broader portfolio." 

 

Maven Raises $45 Million in Series C

Maven, the company that runs virtual clinics to help women and couples through family planning, pregnancy and post-partum care, has closed $45 million in Series C funding, its biggest round yet. The financing was led by Icon Ventures, with contributions from existing investors Sequoia, Oak HC/FT, Spring Mountain Capital, Female Founders Fund, Harmony Partners. The firm also has a number of celebrity backers including Hollywood actresses Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman and Mindy Kaling, and 23andme CEO  Anne Wojcicki. The company was founded in 2014 by Katherine Ryder and has raised $88 million to date. It offers a single, custom programme that can support the different aspects of parenthood, including: egg freezing, fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, pediatrics, adoption, surrogacy, return-to-work, breast milk shipping, and reimbursement management. The clinical provides Care Advocates who advocate for members throughout their experience, on-demand access to the largest custom network of women's and family health providers in over 20 specialties via video chat or messaging and a community of providers offering information, expert support and resources.

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