The Goddess of Sleep

Updated: Nov 30, 2016 4:37 PM UTC

First of all, dear Brainstorm Health Daily readers, a confession: I pulled an all-nighter to write about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep: http://fortune.com/arianna-huffington-thrive-global-company/.

As a result, I’ll keep this opener short and send those willing to my piece on Arianna Huffington’s launch of Thrive Global, a company that hopes to lead a workplace revolution in wellness.

The new project is a dramatic departure from The Huffington Post, the effort that built her fortune and that she ran for 11 years until stepping down in August. But this one could potentially have a transformative impact on our national conversation about wellness—in a way, perhaps, that Huffpo could not have for its diffuse microphone and kitchen-sink interests.

“What does follow the HuffPo playbook,” as I wrote, “are the high-wattage people she’s bringing into her mission—from financiers and investors (Jack Ma, Sean Parker, Ray Dalio, Mohamed El Erian, Nicolas Berggruen, Zoe Baird, Shari Redstone, and the Golden State Warriors’ Andre Iguodala) to an A-list group of C-suite boosters (Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Uber’s Travis Kalanick, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos—all three of whom offered a tribute video or piece for Thrive Global’s launch today).”

Most of the draw is Huffington herself. But, as I wrote—bleary-eyed and in my all-nighter fugue state—“there is also something deeply enticing about Thrive Global’s mission...What’s compelling is not so much the message that well-being leads to happiness, but rather that well-being leads to productivity . . . and creativity. And the opposite is equally true: burn-out, exhaustion, and even more moderate chronic tiredness are productivity (and creativity) killers.”

I got first-hand proof of the latter this morning.

More news from our bright-eyed and bushy-tailed correspondent, below.

Clifton Leaf
@CliftonLeaf
clifton.leaf@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

The Department of Veterans Affairs will use AI and precision medicine to optimize vets' care. The VA has struck a five-year contract with California-based Flow Health to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to help craft individually tailored treatment plans for veterans. "Our mission is to advance healthcare by applying the latest artificial intelligence techniques to improve the detection, diagnosis, treatment, and management of diseases," said CEO Alex Meshkin in a statement. Flow Health will assist the government in analyzing veterans' medical histories and their genomic data in order to try and understand why certain former service members develop certain types of conditions. The hope is that the AI will be able to both detect disease risk and identify the most effective treatments for patients. This isn't the VA's only precision medicine project, either—the agency has also teamed up with tech giant IBM to use its Watson supercomputer in order identify effective cancer treatments. (Healthcare IT News)
This smart patch can sense when to release blood thinners into your body. Imagine if taking your blood thinner and preventing clots were as easy as putting on a patch, kicking back, and letting it do the rest. That's what researchers at the North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are trying to turn into a reality. The scientists created a device which can sense when clots are forming and then automatically administer medicines in response. "Our goal was to generate a patch that can monitor a patient’s blood and release additional drugs when necessary; effectively, a self-regulating system," said Zhen Gu, one of the study's authors, in a statement. Next-gen drug delivery has become an increasingly popular research area as scientists attempt to optimize existing drugs by automating the medication process. As I've previously reported, some of this year's biggest med tech innovations involve new delivery devices, like Medtronic's artificial pancreas for people with type 1 diabetes and Braeburn Pharmaceuticals' matchstick-sized implants to treat opioid addiction. (Drug Delivery Business News)
Could ecstasy become a PTSD therapy? The Food and Drug Administration has given its blessing to researchers who want to see whether ecstasy, the common party drug, could be used to treat PTSD in a large-scale trial. As the New York Times notes, a small 2013 study of ecstasy in PTSD patients showed promising results; now, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which advocates for the medicinal use of drugs like ecstasy and LSD, will be sponsoring phase 3 clinical trials that will encompass at least 230 patients. Dr. Charles R. Marmar, the head of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine, told the Times that such innovative approaches are necessary considering that existing therapies don't work in more than a third of patients. However, he also noted that there are obvious dangers with using an euphoric stimulant like ecstasy over the long term, including the possibility of abuse. (New York Times)

INDICATIONS

A new startup looks to the gut to come up with Parkinson's and autism therapies. Gut research is a hot commodity right now. And a new startup, Axial Biotherapeutics, wants to see whether or not it may hold the key to neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease and autism spectrum disorders. The biotech raised more than $19 million in venture backing to find out whether collections of tiny microorganisms in the gut can somehow be harnessed to combat these conditions. "There is mounting evidence that the gut microbiome is implicated in brain development and neurological health and we believe we are at the forefront of generating new avenues for microbiome-targeted therapeutic interventions in multiple neurological diseases and disorders, including [autism spectrum disorders] and Parkinson’s Disease,” said Axial CEO David H. Donabedian in a statement. Other biopharma companies, including giants like Merck, are exploring whether the microbiome can be used to develop therapies for everything from irritable bowel syndrome to weight gain. (Endpoints)
Pfizer pulls $424 million Irish expansion after ditching next-gen cholesterol drug. A new class of cholesterol-busting drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors has shown initial promise in reducing arterial plaque. The first two of these therapies to come to market are Amgen's Repatha and Sanofi's Praluent; and Pfizer had its own experimental PCSK9 therapy, bococizumab, under development. But the company decided to scrap those plans earlier this month in the wake of side effects observed during clinical trials. And that decision is now forcing Pfizer to abandon expansion plans (and 350 new permanent jobs) at a facility in Dublin, Ireland, where the drug would have been manufactured had it eventually won regulatory approval. The Grange Castle facility will continue to remain one of Pfizer's biggest development hubs, though, according to the company. (BioPharma Dive)
Johnson & Johnson is raising its bid for Europe's biggest biotech. J&J is chasing after Switzerland's Actelion, Europe's biggest biotech firm and a developer of drugs for the deadly condition pulmonary arterial hypertension, or PAH (high blood pressure in arteries in the heart and lungs). And it may have to pay a pretty penny to do so. Bloomberg reports that the U.S. pharma giant has raised its bid for the company from its original offer of $26 billion, citing sources close to the negotiations. But CEO Jean-Paul Clozel, who founded the company and reportedly has major ambitions to keep it independent, may very well continue to drive a hard bargain to any would-be suitors. (Bloomberg)

THE BIG PICTURE

Will Donald Trump's HHS pick really be able to dismantle Obamacare? I have a piece up exploring exactly what Tom Price, the former orthopedic surgeon and chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee who has now been tapped as President-elect Trump's choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), can do to Obamacare. Much of the speculation surrounding Obamacare's fate has centered on the fact that a unified GOP Congress and White House will move to repeal it; but what they would replace it with is a murkier picture. And, furthermore, much of the chatter hasn't even considered the role that Price will play purely from an administrative standpoint. From his new perch atop HHS, the staunch conservative and Obamacare critic will oversee the mundane, but critical, regulatory rule-making that can have huge effects on how healthcare-related laws are implemented. (Fortune)
Bad sleep costs U.S. $411 billion in lost productivity. A new study by RAND Europe finds that Americans' bad sleeping habits are costing the U.S. $411 billion in productivity costs and leading to the loss of 1.2 million working days per year. "Our study shows that the effects from a lack of sleep are massive. Sleep deprivation not only influences an individual’s health and well-being but has a significant impact on a nation’s economy, with lower productivity levels and a higher mortality risk among workers," says main study author Marco Hafner. The results reflect previous studies suggesting the serious havoc that being tired can wreak on the body and mind. Oh, and speaking of sleep—make sure to read Cliff's fantastic feature on Arianna Huffington's new health and wellness outfit, Thrive Global. (Fortune)