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Diagnostics fate in light of COVID vaccine; more positive data to back digital in cardiac care; digital therapeutics’ role in PTSD; trio of healthtech scale-ups close big-buck fundraises; how Stryker views APAC’s digital potential.
Fanfare for promising COVID vaccine muted by fears over test demand
The biggest news this week was undoubtedly Pfizer’s announcement on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine has demonstrated efficacy of over 90% in preliminary Phase III trial results. But while the global masses were rejoicing over the achievement of this critical milestone, the large COVID test makers were perhaps not so pleased to see their share prices take a plunge in reaction to news of the vaccine. The pandemic had opened up a new and substantial revenue stream for these IVD players - including Roche, Abbott, Thermo Fisher and more - and the market reaction was based on fears that the vaccine would dampen demand for COVID tests. But chief executives of these companies have previously commented that even when a vaccine arrives, there will still be a need for COVID tests, albeit the focus would shift more towards surveillance testing (see Wider View: Diagnostics stumble but COVID gains are long term). Was Monday’s IVD stock skydive a knee-jerk reaction? Most likely. The majority of these shares have been rallying through the week.
More data from AHA back digital approaches to cardiac health
The virtual American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions* kicks off on November 13, and among this year’s presentations are studies providing further evidence of the utility of digital approaches to cardiac care. These include findings from research at Massachusetts General Hospital which suggest that wrist-worn wearables - not just the latest generation smartwatches that have ECG capability, but also more standard activity trackers that monitor the pulse - could play an important and beneficial role in effective atrial fibrillation screening strategies. Lead researcher Shaan Khurshid told FirstWord MedTech that these wrist-worn wearables have a good level of sensitivity, but it may best work in combination with another test that has a high specificity rate for detecting AF. See AHA2020 Wider View: Smartwatches can help AF screening - but best with a high-specificity booster to find out more about the significance of this study.
*The virtual AHA Scientific Sessions will be running from November 13-17.
Nightmare-alleviating app gets FDA OK - will it get clinician greenlight?
Among this week’s batch of new product approvals is NightWare, the first FDA-cleared prescription digital therapeutic targeted at post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients suffering from sleep disturbances due to nightmares. The solution is an app designed to work with an Apple Watch; it detects nightmares by tracking the individual's sleep patterns then gently vibrates to interrupt a nightmare. It has been reported that a surge in PTSD patients is expected as a result of COVID - would digital approaches to PTSD, including interventions like NightWare, add value to a clinician’s armamentarium? FirstWord MedTech is conducting a five-question poll to psychiatrists in the US and Europe to find out (see Physician Views: Digital therapeutics’ role in potential PTSD groundswell). If you want to know the results when they come out, click here.
Carbon Health, Congenica and Eko turbo-charge digital VC investment levels
This week saw a trio of meaty series C investments in digital health scale-ups. The largest was Carbon Health, which raised $100 million to further expand its “omnichannel” healthcare network. The company leverages its technology platform to make healthcare as accessible as possible, through physical and online channels such as conventional healthcare clinics, pop-up sites, video, the Carbon Health app and more. Eko raised $65 million to accelerate commercialisation of its AI-driven solution that encompasses a combined digital stethoscope and electrocardiogram device. Across the Atlantic, Cambridge, UK-based Congenica bagged $50 million to scale-up its genomic data analytics business. The company already sells its software - designed to make genomic data analysis faster and more reliable - to customers spanning 18 countries but it looking to broaden its reach and has succeeded in getting global investors like China’s Tencent, among others, on board (see One To Watch: Congenica seeks to make genomic analysis “simple and routine”).
Stryker’s Lobo on why APAC is fertile ground for digital health
While Asian investors are becoming an important source of capital for digital health companies, the APAC region should also be noted for embracing healthtech faster than anywhere else in the world, as highlighted by Stryker CEO Kevin Lobo at the recent APACMed Virtual Forum. In a fireside chat session, Lobo underlined the importance of APAC to the company, with its global technology centre based in India and the support it brings to its expanding network of digital technologies being used worldwide. To find out more about Stryker’s digital health strategy moving forward, read Medtech Leaders: Why Stryker's CEO is looking East for digital opportunities.
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