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Brainstorm Health Daily: May 1, 2017

Good morning, readers. I hope you enjoyed your weekend. This is Sy.

Taking your medicine can be a hassle. Actually, it can be so much of a hassle that some analyses suggest the U.S. wastes nearly $300 billion per year in health care spending because people don’t take their drugs as prescribed. But one company has a unique idea for bucking this trend: An AI-powered robot health care assistant that has conversations with people and nudges them to take their medicine.

San Francisco-based digital health firm Catalia Health has raised $2.5 million in a seed funding extension round led by Khosla Ventures, the company announced on Monday. Catalia describes itself as a “patient care management” outfit. Its tech is paired with a big-eyed, artificial intelligence-fueled robot called Mabu.

“This investment enables us to hit two major milestones: roll out Mabu to our first patients and obtain significant data that will show the benefits of our platform to patients and customers,” said Catalia founder and CEO Dr. Cory Kidd in a statement.

Mabu’s main purpose is to prevent chronically ill patients with conditions like congestive heart failure or kidney disease from having to go back to the hospital. This could be a boon to medical care providers, who face penalties if too many patients have to be readmitted to their facilities, and to patients who (hopefully) will be able to better manage their diseases.

The health care assistant isn’t just an alarm clock for taking drugs, though. It can also strike conversations with patients and gauge their emotional states in order to figure out how to best convince them to properly stick to their treatment protocols.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


1 million U.S. babies have been conceived in a lab. A new report finds that at least one million U.S. babies have been conceived with the help of in vitro fertilization and other kinds of lab-assisted reproductive techniques. In 2015 alone, the number was about 68,000 babies, according to the analysis by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. The success rate for attempted lab-assisted conception varies widely by age, however—and the overall success rate was just shy of 32% in 2015. (NBC News)


Ecstasy compound comes closer to becoming a PTSD treatment. MDMA, sold as the party drug Molly and an ecstasy component, may very well become the first illicit psychedelic drug approved to treat PTSD. Researchers at the Psychedelic Science 2017 in Oakland, CA unveiled promising results of a mid-stage clinical trial finding that MDMA, combined with a specific type of psychotherapy, appeared to eliminate the illness in patients who were treated with this method two or three times. In fact, 67% of the PTSD sufferers showed no signs after more than a year (compared to just 23% of the control group that was given psychotherapy and a placebo). The next step: larger phase 3 trials which, if as successful as the mid-stage studies, could herald a milestone FDA approval. (Nature)

FDA approves potential blockbuster lung cancer drug from Takeda. The FDA on Friday approved Alunbrig, a treatment for a specific type of lung cancer that could eventually rake in more than $1 billion per year, according to analysts. That’s great news for Takeda, which added the therapy to its arsenal when it completed its $5.2 billion acquisition of Boston-based Ariad Pharmaceuticals just two months ago.


Congress rebuffs Trump’s proposed NIH cuts, will boost funding by $2 billion. In a rebuke to President Donald Trump, Congressional lawmakers reached a government funding and appropriations deal on Sunday that will add $2 billion to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) coffers this year. That’s a sharp departure from Trump’s call to slash $1.2 billion from the biomedical research-funding agency this year alone and $5.8 billion down the line—a nearly 20% cut to the NIH. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have balked at the requested cuts, arguing the NIH’s scientific mission is too important for it to be underfunded.

Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove to step down. Longtime Cleveland Clinic chief executive Dr. Toby Cosgrove announced on Monday that he will be stepping down from his post later this year (although he will remain at the world class medical facility in an advisory capacity). Cosgrove has been the president and CEO of the organization for almost 13 years and grown it into a nationally recognized health care leader with satellite sites all over the country. “It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of an extraordinary and forward-thinking organization that puts patients at the center of everything we do,” said Cosgrove in a statement. “Cleveland Clinic’s world-class reputation of clinical excellence, innovation, medical education and research was created and will be maintained by the truly dedicated caregivers who work tirelessly to provide the best care to our patients.” Fortune named Cosgrove one of our 50 Businesspeople of the Year in 2016. (Cleveland)


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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