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Brainstorm Health Daily: March 3, 2017

Rare is the evening that someone brings up the 18th century Scottish philosopher-economist Adam Smith. Rarer still is when someone brings up Mr. Smith to speak not of the virtues of his laissez-faire doctrine—the view that business ought to do what it does free from the constraints of regulation, tariff, and subsidy—but of, well, the fellow’s other writings: the softer, gooier stuff like this:

All the members of human society stand in need of each other’s assistance, and are likewise exposed to mutual injuries. Where the necessary assistance is reciprocally afforded from love, from gratitude, from friendship, and esteem, the society flourishes and is happy. All the different members of it are bound together by the agreeable bands of love and affection, and are, as it were, drawn to one common center of mutual good offices.

And this (thank you, online Library of Economics and Liberty):

The wise and virtuous man is at all times willing that his own private interest should be sacrificed to the public interest of his own particular order or society. He is at all times willing, too, that the interest of this order or society should be sacrificed to the greater interest of the state or sovereignty, of which it is only a subordinate part. He should, therefore, be equally willing that all those inferior interests should be sacrificed to the greater interest of the universe, to the interest of that great society of all sensible and intelligent beings…

But such a rare evening, indeed, happened last night. I was pleased to be a guest at a dinner hosted by the Foreign Policy Association, where Dominic Barton, the global managing partner of McKinsey & Company, was receiving an award. In Barton’s brief and eloquent remarks, he reminded us of the wisdom of this other, less famous Adam Smith—the 36-year-old first-time author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), not the grizzled scribe of the seminal An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776).

Barton rightly called Smith’s starter opus “very painful to read.” (I tried a bit last night before bedtime.) But Smith’s insights here are, if anything, more relevant to today’s society than those pressed forward in the Wealth of Nations.

We, in the realm of business, do need to understand and respect the connection we have to—and the impact we have on—communities local and global. We do need to consider how our own enterprises can best serve society at large. And Barton, a self-styled “Jesuit of capitalism,” offered three guiding principles for businesses to accomplish these worthy goals.

First, is that CEOs and other corporate leaders should truly manage their businesses for the long-term rather than the next quarter. Over the past thirty years, said Barton, “we’ve shifted much more to a short-term, less-inclusive type of capitalism.” Witness one McKinsey study that found that 55% of CFOs in the top 500 publicly listed companies would not make net-present-value-positive investments if it meant missing their quarterly earnings target by one cent.

As a ceiling-high pile of research has shown, companies that manage for the long-term outperform short-term thinkers in almost every measure—not only creating more revenue and delivering better shareholder returns, but also providing more employment for society.

Second, is that “business needs to speak out more about why the systems that we think work—trade, the free flow of capital and people (including immigrants)—is important to what we do.” And at the same time, says Barton, business leaders should be more “in touch with” and sensitive to those workers who are being dislocated and disrupted by technology and trade.

And third is that business—“which is uniquely qualified to deal with some of the broader, societal challenges that are out there”—should embrace these challenges as goals rather than run away from them.

I couldn’t agree more.

It was an inspirational dinner, I have to say—Adam Smith and all. Enjoy the weekend, everyone.

Clifton Leaf
@CliftonLeaf
clifton.leaf@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

A “smart” patch could treat migraine pain. A new wireless patch that you can place on your arm and can control through a smartphone app can zap away your migraine pain. The device, created by Theranica Ltd., uses electrodes and a smart chip that can deliver electrical impulses through the arm which then pain signals from reaching the brain. And while large-scale trials have yet to begin, the company hopes that the device will be available on the market as early as next year thanks to impressive results in early studies and minimal side effects. Just how effective was the device? In a trial of 71 migraine patients, using the highest level of impulse intensity within 20 minutes of a migraine’s onset knocked 58% of moderate-to-severe pain sufferers down to mild or no pain. And 30% of the migraine patients using the highest stimulation level had no pain at all. The tech is particularly promising given the broader U.S. health system’s new push to move away from addictive painkillers in the wake of the opioid overdose epidemic. (CBS News)

An old Francis Collins blog post featuring immune cells killing a cancer cell re-emerges. Here’s some cool Friday viewing – Anirban Maitra, a scientific director at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, tweeted out a pretty awesome video of a group of cytotoxic immune T-cells homing in on and destroying a cancer cell. It took a minute for Maitra to figure out the video’s source. But eventually, he discovered that it was from a blog post by none other than National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Dr. Francis Collins. The stunning video itself was “produced by Alex T. Ritter as part of Celldance 2014, an annual video series by the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB),” Collins explains. Check out what it looks like when the immune system pops a cancerous intruder into oblivion.

Sometimes, digital health goes too far. Like with this high-tech “smart condom.” Here at Brainstorm Health Daily, we like to showcase the most innovative creations of our increasingly digital and Internet-connected world. But does everything need to be a “smart” device? At least one company thinks so. The i.Con by British Condoms is a digital ring that’s placed around an old-school, not-digital prophylactic. Then, during, uh, “live use,” it records all sorts of data like “thrust velocity,” thrust speed, size, and even calories burnt during the…session. And would it be a smart device if it didn’t pair with an app where you can get all your stats in handy reports and potentially share them with the world? You can get one for about $75 on pre-order, if you’re so inclined, although the release date has not been announced. (Fortune)

INDICATIONS

Indian drug makers want to partner with President Trump on cheap treatment imports. India’s pharma industry has a proposition for President Donald Trump: use our products to fight high drug prices in the U.S. That’s according to an Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance report that was obtained by Bloomberg which highlights the various challenges and potential that Trump administration policies have for the Indian drug sector. India manufactures a massive portion of the generic drugs used around the world. But while Trump has called for cheaper therapies, he’s also pushed for U.S. manufacturing of treatments, putting Indian drug makers in a tight spot. Earlier this week, Senate Democrats introduced legislation that would legalize importing cheaper therapies from other countries. (Bloomberg)

Roche shares spike on Herceptin/Perjeta combo trial victory. Roche’s flagship breast cancer treatment Herceptin has been one of the company’s most lucrative therapies. That’s expected to change next year, when the first generic competitors to the drug will launch in Europe. But a new study of early-stage, HER2-positive breast cancer patients (this form of cancer affects one in five breast cancer sufferers) finds that a cocktail of chemotherapy, Herceptin, and Roche’s newer treatment Perjeta successfully prolonged progression-free survival compared with Herceptin and chemotherapy alone. The company has yet to release detailed information from the trial, but said the results were significant. Analysts say that an approval of this combo for earlier-stage cancer patients could add $2 billion to Roche’s Perjeta haul by 2020. (Wall Street Journal)

Bluebird Bio’s sickle cell gene therapy shows very early promise. A French teenager with sickle cell disease hasn’t seen his illness return in 15 months despite no longer taking medications thanks to a groundbreaking gene therapy treatment from U.S. biotech Bluebird Bio. The young man’s procedure was performed at Necker Children’s Hospital in Paris. It involved extracting his bone marrow and then re-engineering it to no longer produce faulty red blood cells (a virus was used to infect the marrow with “correct” instructions on how to create blood). “So far the patient has no sign of the disease, no pain, no hospitalization. He no longer requires a transfusion so we are quite pleased with that,” University of Paris professor of medicine Philippe Leboulch told the BBC. “But of course we need to perform the same therapy in many patients to feel confident that it is robust enough to propose it as a mainstream therapy.” NIH director Dr. Francis Collins has previously pointed to gene therapy and gene-editing techniques as supremely promising for the treatment of sickle cell. (BBC)

THE BIG PICTURE

New Kaiser report finds that Americans have lots of trouble with health care costs. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that Americans place reducing high health care costs as a top priority for Congress and the Trump administration. And it’s not hard to see why. According to the survey, more than four in 10 insured adults have trouble paying their deductibles and three in 10 have trouble paying their medical bills. That leads to cuts in spending on household items and major purchases, and forces many to deplete their savings or get a second job. More than two-thirds of the respondents said lowering the amount people pay for health care should be a top priority, and 61% singled out lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Obamacare repeal is lower on the list of priorities, with 37% considering it very important (though there are large discrepancies depending on partisan affiliation). (Kaiser Family Foundation

Lawmakers pulled some ridiculous stunts during their search for the GOP’s “secret” Obamacare bill yesterday. Capitol Hill turned into a little bit of a circus on Thursday as lawmakers desperately hunted for the House GOP’s “secret” draft Obamacare replacement bill. The legislation being crafted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee has been hidden away in a basement and is under lock and key (seriously). Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who’s no Obamacare fan himself, swore to track down the bill and unveil it to the American people. And he brought a portable copy machine along with him just to make clear how serious he was. In another episode, Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer professed his disappointment in the Republican party’s decision to keep the bill under wraps to a bust of Abraham Lincoln (again, seriously). Well, after all that drama, the Holy Health Care Bill was finally leaked to Politico this morning, and it’s pretty much in line with the “blueprint” that was leaked a couple weeks back. That means it’s almost certain to draw the ire of Congressional conservatives, who have dismissed the plan as “Obamacare lite.” (Fortune)

REQUIRED READING

Apple Is Expanding Its War With Qualcommby Don Reisinger 

Here’s How Snap’s IPO Just Proved We’re In a Tech Bubbleby Jen Wieczner

Google and Coursera Have a Plan to Help Fill Tech Job Gapsby Rachel King

Apple, IBM, Amazon, and Others Team Up to Support a Transgender High School Studentby Reuters

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

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