Skip to Content

Brainstorm Health Daily: March 16, 2017

Kittens are next. And then Disney characters, followed by snow days. These, from leaked documents, are apparently the next targets of the Trump budget team.

Now those of you who have studied the process of federal budget making might interject that Uncle Sam doesn’t do much in the first place to fund kittens. Or Disney characters. Or snow days. And that even if the President wanted to cut their nonexistent federal funding, he’d still have to go through Congress to do it. That august group, after all, is the actual holder of the federal purse.

But then, one could dismiss just as handily the proposed 2018 federal budget that the White House released yesterday. That spending recommendation—entitled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again”—would slash $5.8 billion, or about 18%, from the annual outlay for the National Institutes of Health, and it would cut even more sharply from other programs within the Department of Health and Human Services. And while no specific numbers have yet been revealed in the Trump budget outline for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Republican replacement plan for Obamacare already has that agency in the cross hairs—by promising to eliminate a government prevention and public health fund that puts a billion dollars in the CDC’s coffers, the Washington Post reports. As for the Environmental Protection Agency, it would suffer the goriest cuts of all—with budgeteers (rumored to be wearing Jason-style hockey masks) preparing to slash nearly a third of the department’s budget.

American voters, it would seem, strongly like the notion that federally supported doctors, scientists, nurses, and other caregivers are trying to protect their health and well-being. They like the fact that researchers are frantically searching for cures for cancer, and Alzheimer’s and dreaded viruses galore, and working to prevent the next global pandemic, and trying to keep the environment safe from threats, whether in our backyards or far away. (That’s what poll after poll says, at any rate.) And lawmakers in Congress clearly know this, too.

So why would the President propose a budget that cuts these beloved programs to the bone?

Hmm. I honestly don’t know. But all I can say is, “Watch out, pandas. You’re next.”

More news below.

Clifton Leaf, Editor in Chief, FORTUNE


Biomatics Capital raises $200 million for digital health, biotech fund. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation veterans Boris Nikolic and Julie Sunderland, who served as the chief adviser for science and technology and the director of programming investments, respectively, at the philanthropic giant have raised $200 million for their venture fund Biomatic Capital. Biomatics was launched last year and will focus on funding fledgling firms in the big data-driven digital health space and genomics space. For instance, it’s already backed AiCure, whose tech uses smartphones to see whether or not patients are taking their medications. “It’s our goal to seek out radically innovative solutions—the outliers,” said Sunderland in a statement. (Seattle Times)

AliveCor raises $30 million for FDA-cleared mobile heart monitor. Digital health upstart AliveCor has raised $30 million in Series D funding from major players like Omron Healthcare and the Mayo Clinic, the company announced Thursday. AliveCor focuses on wearable tech that can monitor various biometrics like blood pressure, weight, heart rate, etc. and send the information to patients’ doctors. The firm is also launching a Kardio Pro platform that’s “specifically designed so doctors can access, analyze, and interpret patient data collected through the AliveCor device.” (Fortune)


Senator introduces bill to boost pharmacy benefits manager transparency. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden (D) wants to shed some light on an industry that can sometimes go under the radar in the drug pricing debate: pharmacy benefits managers, who negotiate discounts from drug makers for insurance companies and other clients. Wyden’s bill would require PBMs to disclose the total rebates and discounts that they score from biopharma companies for drugs on their formularies. The purpose would be to see exactly how much money is being saved – and how much of those savings are being passed on to clients and consumers. (Morning Consult)

PTC Therapeutics snatches up controversial Marathon Duchenne drug. Marathon Pharmaceuticals has officially abandoned its controversial therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), which had received widespread criticism for a list price of $89,000 despite being a commonly available, cheap steroid in other countries (which also doesn’t actually address the root cause of DMD). The treatment is being hawked to PTC Therapeutics, which has also been trying (and, so far, not succeeding) in getting a Duchenne treatment to market for $75 million in cash and $65 million in PTC common stock. Investors are clearly not cheering the strategy – PTC shares are down more than 12% in Thursday trading. (MarketWatch)


Trumpcare gets its first GOP defections. In a key House committee vote Thursday, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), or Trumpcare, officially got its first GOP “nay” votes. Reps. Dave Brat, Gary Palmer, and Mark Sanford joined all of the House Budget Committee’s Democrats in opposing the legislation, leading to a razor thin 19-17 passage (that rate of defection would be enough to sink the bill in the full House). Moderate and conservative lawmakers have said the legislation needs some major changes in the wake of a brutal Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score projecting widespread coverage losses and short-term premium hikes. (Fortune)


A Breakdown of Trump’s Budget: The Winners and Losersby Reuters 

Uber Just Promoted This Machine Learning Expert to Its Chief Scientist Roleby Polina Marinova

Judge Rejects Google Email Scanning Dealby Jeff John Roberts

Samsung’s New Galaxy S8 Will Have Facial Recognition Technologyby Zamira Rahim

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

Find past coverage. Sign up for other Fortune newsletters.