Brainstorm Health Daily: April 13, 2017

April 13, 2017, 4:47 PM UTC

Greetings, readers. This is Sy at your service.

Apple entered the medical R&D arena with its ResearchKit platform. Now, it appears the tech giant may have its sights set on an actual medical device to treat diabetes.

Details are sparse and Apple is declining to comment. But CNBC cites three sources as saying that the company has hired a team of biomedical engineers to work on a “secret” project to create sensors that will be used to monitor and manage diabetes—an initiative that was, reportedly, dreamt up by late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs himself.

Apple has company in the arena. Alphabet and GlaxoSmithKline have joined together to work on their own disease-management devices. And that’s not even to mention the dozens of upstarts that are combining smartphone apps, sensors and trackers, and other technology to monitor chronic patients.

Read on for the day’s news.


U.C. Berkeley fights back in CRISPR patent spat. The University of California, Berkeley is appealing the February USPTO ruling that delivered a major IP victory for the gene-editing technology to rival the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Berkeley has taken its case to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. Publicly, the Broad Institute isn't sweating it. "Given that the facts have not changed, we expect the outcome will once again be the same," said the Broad in a statement. "We are confident the Federal Circuit will affirm the PTAB decision and recognize the contribution of the Broad, MIT, and Harvard in developing this transformative technology." Last month, the European Patent Office (EPO) announced that it intended to give Berkeley and its allied CRISPR-focused biopharma firms a wide-ranging patent for the technology, including its use in humans. (The Verge)

The newest Garmin wearable wants to measure your stress levels. Garmin unveiled its newest fitness tracker on Wednesday, the Vivosmart 3, and it comes with several notable upgrades to the Vivosmart HR. Beyond a sleeker design, the Vivosmart also calculates new metrics like "fitness age" and stress level (the latter is calculated by measuring discrepancies in heart rate). In essence, these features bring Garmin's tech a bit more in line with Fitbit's; rather than spit out VO2 fitness stats, the device will actually grade your relative fitness (from "poor" to "superior") based on other data such as age and gender. It'll even tell you what age you are based on your fitness stats. And, finally, the new tracker will also be able to count the number of reps of various strength training exercises a user does. (Ars Technica)


Speaking of secrets, Martin Shkreli wants to launch a new biotech. Apple may be working on a secret project to treat diabetes. But Martin Shkreli is getting ready to "shock and awe" the world with a hush-hush new biotech software project. Shkreli told New Yorker journalist Sheelah Kolhatkar he's not sweating his upcoming summer trial over wire and securities fraud charges (unrelated to the infamous 5,000% drug price hike that put him on the national villain map). "I think they’ll return a not-guilty verdict in two hours," he said. "There are going to be jurors who will be fans of mine. I walk down the streets of New York and people shake my hand. They say, 'I want to be just like you.'" That remains to be seen. But for now, he's been raising money to launch a new biotech software venture dubbed Godel Systems. What does it do? "I haven’t told anybody what it is," said Shkreli. "When I do, it will shock and awe the world." And the world awaits with bated breath. (The New Yorker)

Bristol-Myers Squibb hawks two experimental drug programs to Roche, Biogen. Bristol-Myers Squibb is selling off two different drug candidates—one for the treatment of the rare genetic neurological disorder progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and the other for treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (the former is going to Biogen for a $300 million upfront payment while the latter will now belong to Roche for $170 million upfront). The moves tell you something about the direction that Bristol-Myers wants to take its pipeline. And it's clearly not toward more orphan drugs for rare genetic disorders. The drug maker is doubling down on developing new cancer and liver disease treatments. (Xconomy)


Trump threatens to blow up Obamacare if Democrats don't come to the table; Democrats prepare to sue. President Donald Trump is floating the notion of halting payments to insurance companies selling Obamacare plans—payments that are used to significantly reduce poor Americans' out-of-pocket health care costs—if Congressional Democrats don't get ready to deal with him on dismantling the seven-year-old health law. The move would effectively destroy the marketplaces, either forcing insurers to significantly hike premiums or, more likely, exit the exchanges altogether. Trump is fond of saying that he'll simply let Obamacare "explode," but this move would be more akin to active sabotage. And the hostage-holding has some Democratic lawyers gearing up for a legal fight to defend the Affordable Care Act. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, for instance, believes that Trump's comments will convince judges that he's acting in bad faith and deliberately attempting to subvert the law. (Fortune)

The trans fat ban may have saved lives in New York. Deaths, heart attacks, and strokes all fell in New York counties that banned trans fat, according to a new analysis by Yale researchers. In fact, hospital admissions for heart attacks and strokes declined 6% in the three years following the ban relative to counties that didn't implement such rules. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has removed trans fats from its "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) list, and after 2018, food makers will have to seek special permission to include trans fats in their products. (NBC News)


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