It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.
– Mahatma Gandhi
- Health tech was all the rage at this year's J. P. Morgan Healthcare Investment Conference, specifically the trend in companies in flyover country.
- The Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance teams with Amazon to harness the power of big data in improving healthcare and treating disease.
- Washington University in St. Louis gets an NIH grant to support a genomics database.
- The Duke Cancer Institute has announced promising new developments in breast cancer therapy.
- Name that Flyover city!
November 11, 2019
35,000 FOOT VIEW: HEALTH TECH
Keep your eye on "Flyover" health tech
Health tech is hot
At the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Investment Conference held earlier it was very clear that Health tech in flyover cities is even hotter.
As we've talked about before, venture capitalists—even those from Silicon Valley and New York—are looking to back health-based technology in the country between the coasts.
Some of the biggest health care companies—we're talking United Health Group, Humana, Anthem, and Cardinal Health—are located in Minnesota, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.
And new investments are happening every day. One of the standouts at the conference was the Minneapolis-based Bright Health, a healthcare systems innovation company that raised $440 million on top of a billion-dollar valuation.
Notable statements from the conference
As reported by The Observer, Jodi Hubler, the managing director of Lemhi Ventures, said that once venture capitalists see a company like Bright Health raise that kind of money, they "look around and see what else they have been missing."
Aly Lovett, a partner at New York City-based Radian Capital, said her firm invests exclusively in markets outside of major US cities and that she's seeing growth in places that are coming to be considered technology hotbeds.
The Observer also lists the 20 hottest health start-ups in "flyover tech" at the 37th annual J.P. Morgan Health Care Conference. You can find their list here.
Out of chaos comes opportunity
It has become clear that health tech advancement may be the largest catalyst for economic growth in Flyover country in the years to come. The potential is enormous. The complex infrastructure of players along with the regulatory climate have created friction for decades. But, out of chaos comes significant entrepreneurial opportunity and new technology is the key to breakthroughs. We will continue to watch this trend.
To that point the remaining stories in today's issue provide just a few of numerous examples of the potential for opportunities we, in Flyover Country, have in health tech. So, read on ...
Big Data and healthcare in Pittsburgh
Healthcare often seems like the last field to come kicking and screaming into the world of modern technology. From the clipboard of data they make you fill out with pen and paper to that little rubber mallet they smack your knee with, going to the doctor sometimes seems like traveling back in time. The Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance (PHDA), a consortium created by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, wants to change that.
PHDA has teamed up with Amazon Web Services—Amazon’s machine learning arm—to harness the power of Big Data to improve healthcare and treat disease. The idea is to bring together normally isolated data sets, like patient information, diagnostic imaging, prescriptions, genomic profiles, and insurance records.
By wrangling all that data, scientists hope to improve treatment, improve lab outcomes, and keep patients better informed so they can be more involved in their own care. And before you freak out about Amazon co-opting patients’ data and sending them ads for diamond-encrusted catheters, rest assured that all data in the project remains secure and anonymous and stays with PHDA institutions.
Washington University to support genomics database
Precision medicine holds enormous promise for healthcare practitioners and their cancer patients. By identifying and interpreting disease-causing genetic variants, clinicians can develop targeted treatment strategies for an individual.
Recognizing the need for a centralized repository of information on these variants, twin brothers Obi L. Griffith, PhD, and Malachi Griffith, PhD, who are both researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, founded a database called CIViC . The database is “an open access, open source, community-driven web resource for Clinical Interpretation of Variants in Cancer.”
The Griffiths liken it to “a Wikipedia for cancer genomics,” where anyone can contribute information, which is then curated by experts and made publicly available for free. So far, CIViC has seen more than 3,000 visitors a month, from hospitals and research institutes all over the world.
And now the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has given Washington University Medical School a $3.7 million grant to support the database project.
“Maintaining up-to-date and comprehensive information about the significance of genetic mutations in cancer—and what such mutations may mean for patients—is a major bottleneck to improving cancer care,” Obi Griffith said. “CIViC is the kind of tool that can help relieve that bottleneck.”
Duke doctor developing promising new breast cancer therapy
The Duke Cancer Institute announced promising new developments in breast cancer therapy, specifically targeting cancer cells that become resistant to hormone therapy during treatment. The new findings, announced by Donald McDonnell, PhD, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke, zero in on newly discovered vulnerabilities in estrogen-positive breast cancers prone to developing resistance to treatments currently in practice.
Set for clinical trials within the next year, the pharmacological and biochemical approach put forth by McDonnell “identifies a universal pathway used by tumors to outmaneuver both tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors.” In theory, shutting down said pathway will reduce therapy resistance and cancer recurrence.
McDonnell added, “In our study we looked for new therapeutic targets that emerged as cancer cells tried to circumvent tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors and used the information to develop two new approaches to inhibit the emergence of resistance or treat cancers that had already become resistant to standard endocrine therapies.”
Duke received funding for the study from the National Institutes of Health, Susan G. Komen, Viba Therapeutics, Novartis, and the Royal Marsden Institute of Cancer Research. When it comes beating cancer, it certainly takes a village.
It's ... Name that Flyover city!
Useless information that is strangely fascinating.
- This city established the first Jewish hospital in the US.
- Oak Ridge Cemetery in this city is the final resting place
of Abraham Lincoln.
- The Reuben sandwich was invented in this city.
Click here for today's answers
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