Skip to Content

Brainstorm Health Daily: March 15, 2017

Good morning, readers. This is Sy filling in for Cliff, who is busy with some other things this morning.

One of the biggest challenges for the digital health space is proving that groundbreaking new technologies actually live up to the accuracy standards of tested, tried, and true “old school” methods. On that front, Apple’s ResearchKit just got some encouraging news.

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai researchers found that the Asthma Mobile Health Study, powered by the ResearchKit-linked iPhone app Asthma Health (and launched at the same time as ResearchKit’s debut in 2015), produced survey results in line with existing research on asthma patients.

That led investigators to conclude that ResearchKit is “particularly suitable for studies of short duration that require rapid enrollment across diverse geographical locations, frequent data collection, and real-time feedback to participants,” according to Yvonne Chan, who heads up the digital health and personalized medicine unit at Mount Sinai. “Our study demonstrates the power of mobile health tools to scale and accelerate clinical research so that we can derive the evidence needed to inform clinical practice and improve patient care,” she said.

Read on for the day’s news. And consider shooting Cliff a well-deserved congratulations while you’re at it.

Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

Former Google Ventures chief may (actually) be launching a biotech fund. Is the second time the charm? Google Ventures’ (now GV) former CEO, Bill Maris, is reportedly forging ahead with plans to launch a $100 million biotech venture fund. The nerdily-named Section 32 (that’s a Star Trek reference, for you non-geeks) will reportedly close by early next month, according to sources who spoke with Bloomberg. The $100 million figures is significantly lower than the $230 million fund Maris reportedly wanted to launch but then abruptly abandoned. Stay tuned to see if this one actually comes to fruition. (Bloomberg)

Genentech funds UC Riverside multiple sclerosis telemedicine study. The University of California, Riverside has received a $100,000 cash infusion from Roche arm Genentech to assess telemedicine’s promise for multiple sclerosis patients. Telehealth could potentially be a major advantage for people suffering MS because the condition is a movement disorder, which can make trekking over to the doctor’s office for consults particularly difficult.

INDICATIONS

AstraZeneca’s Lynparza continues to impress, putting the pressure on rival Tesaro. AstraZeneca cancer drug Lynparza has pulled in even more impressive data in a late-stage clinical trial of hard-to-treat ovarian cancer patients. And it’s putting the squeeze on the significantly smaller biotech Tesaro, which is developing a treatment in the same “PARP inhibitor” space. The latest results show that Lynparza was able to put off cancer recurrence for more than two years in ovarian cancer patients whose disease returned after receiving chemotherapy. Tesaro shares were down about 2% in early Tuesday trading. (FiercePharma)

FDA approves Merck’s Keytruda in a blood cancer. In a first, the Food and Drug Administration has approved Merck’s cancer immunotherapy superstar Keytruda to treat a blood cancer – in this case, for Hodgkin lymphoma patients whose conditions haven’t been improved by at least three prior treatments. While Keytruda has been approved for multiple cancers ranging from melanoma to lung cancer (where it’s handily wiping the floor with rival Opdivo from Bristol-Myers Squibb), this is the treatment’s first indication for a blood cancer.

THE BIG PICTURE

Shoveling snow after the storm? Be careful. If you’re one of our dear East Coast readers, chances are you had a tussle with a storm named Stella yesterday. But if you’re still working to clear out that pesky driveway snow, make sure to be safe. Heart attacks and back injuries spike in the winter, especially after snow storms, and shoveling snow is a big part of the reason why. The American Heart Association has a list of recommendations for protecting your health under strenuous winter-time activity, including staying hydrated, taking plenty of breaks, and layering up in the cold (heart failure is the number one cause of hypothermia-related deaths in the U.S.). (Fortune)

Do corporate wellness programs actually work? My Fortune colleague Erika Fry has a fascinating piece (a version of which is also in our March 15 magazine issue on the Best Companies to Work For) on the debate surrounding corporate wellness programs. The central question around these efforts is whether or not they’re actually effective. The wellness industry would have you believe that they’re a magical fix that improves workers’ health (and thereby reduces employers’ health care costs). The evidence is far more mixed than that. But some companies still believe that a well-designed wellness program can go a long way. Take a moment to check out Erika’s piece. (Fortune)

Monsanto accused of ghostwriting its own cancer studies. A bombshell lawsuit accuses Monsanto employees of ghostwriting the company’s scientific analyses of cancer risks associated with the blood cancer non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and stemming from a chemical in the firm’s Roundup weed killer. These same reports were then used by the Environmental Protection Agency to assure the chemical’s safety, according to the plaintiffs. (Fortune)

REQUIRED READING

Republicans Are In Disarray Over the CBO’s Trumpcare Reportby Sy Mukherjee 

Trump’s 2005 IRS Filing Shows He May Have Understated His Salary By Millionsby Stephen Gandel

EU Approves AT&T-Time Warner Dealby Reuters

The 50 Most Powerful Latinas of 2017by Association of Latino Professionals for America

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

Find past coverage. Sign up for other Fortune newsletters.