Brainstorm Health Daily: July 31, 2017

July 31, 2017, 2:48 PM UTC

Happy Monday, my fellow Dailies. In Friday’s newsletter, I asked, “Why don’t we have a Shark Tank for healthcare startups?”

Clifton Leaf, Editor in Chief, FORTUNE

A few in-the-know readers pointed out that the question was based on a faulty assumption: It turns out there are Shark Tank–like contests for healthcare startups. Plenty of them.

For three years, for instance, Prime Health—a “digital health innovation ecosystem” based in Colorado—has sponsored a “Digital Health Challenge,” says Prime Health CEO Steve Adams. The contest is open to any early-stage health-tech startup with a product at least in beta stage. Finalists get to pitch their offerings in front of a live audience and potential investors (this year’s event is being held at a big Denver convention center on Oct. 19). Winners get a share of a $150,000 prize—and more importantly, are offered the opportunity to work with a large Colorado healthcare system, payer, or provider network on building a pilot project. Since it was launched in 2014, the Prime Health Challenge has connected 46 companies to investors and major healthcare organizations.

“I have been founder and CEO of several digital health companies,” says Adams, “and can tell you from experience that there is huge value for early-stage companies to have access to customers with a desire to pilot these solutions.”

Dan Wasserman, founder and CEO of Mammoth Health Innovation in Ontario, Canada, calls attention to several other health-related Shark Tanks which, unfortunately, “are not nearly as visible as the TV show.” Two worthy talent showcases, he says, are the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator, in partnership with TechStars; and HealthKick, sponsored by the well-regarded MaRS innovation hub in Toronto.

Wasserman, who helped create Ontario’s Healthcare Ecosphere, which focuses on bringing innovative, problem-solving ideas to hospitals, says several other cities (including Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Washington, DC, and San Francisco) have their own health-tech bake-offs, too. Throw in entrepreneur-nurturing programs like Johnson & Johnson’s celebrated JLABS and the Illumina Accelerator and there are yet more places for med startups to show off their ingenuity and find avenues for commercialization. “Bottom line,” says Wasserman, “they are all ‘health Shark Tanks.’”


Thank you Dan and Steve—and to all of you faithful Brainstorm Health Daily readers—for your great contributions to this newsletter community. Keep those emails coming, please!

Sy’s got the news below.


Merck: NotPetya cyberattack affected R&D, manufacturing. During its recent second quarter 2017 earnings call, pharma giant Merck revealed that last month's NotPetya cyberattack did indeed hamper the drug maker's R&D, manufacturing, and sales operations—but it's unclear to exactly what extent. "The company is in the process of restoring its manufacturing operations. To date, Merck has largely restored its packaging operations and has partially restored its formulation operations. The company is in the process of restoring its Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient operations but is not yet producing bulk product. The company’s external manufacturing was not impacted," the firm said, adding that it's "confident" that key portfolio products will maintain a continuous supply.

Pharma companies turn to Pandora for targeted ads. Pandora, the music streaming and radio service which creates personally tailored stations for its listeners, is ramping up its presence in the targeted pharmaceutical advertising game with the help of a collaborative agreement with patient data mining company Crossix, which compiles anonymized patient health information. Pandora's Lee Ann Longinotti, who runs the firm's health care efforts, tells FiercePharma that Pandora is a data company at heart, and its ability to reach highly specific population segments can help drug makers run disease awareness campaigns and also attempt to lure them away from competitors. (FiercePharma)


Johnson & Johnson rheumatoid arthritis drug may be in trouble. Mere days before a critical meeting of expert advisers to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), staff reviewers at the agency are raising red flags over Johnson & Johnson's experimental rheumatoid arthritis treatment sirukumab, which the company has long hoped may eventually become a $1 billion-plus sales drug. The reviewers point out a spike in patient deaths among clinical trial participants taking the therapy compared with those on a placebo. For its part, J&J says that's it is still confident of the treatment's risk-benefit profile. But recently, partner GlaxoSmithKline pulled out of its partnership with J&J on the drug. (Reuters)


Trump threatens to end Obamacare insurer payments that keep market stable. After last week's dramatic collapse of the Senate GOP's plan to repeal parts of Obamacare, the big question was: How would President Donald Trump react? The answer appears to be threatening the law's marketplaces. In a series of tweets over the weekend, Trump implied he would cut off what he calls insurance company "bailouts" under Obamacare (he also appeared to threaten lawmakers' health care coverage). These payments are made to insurance companies in exchange for them lowering the deductibles and out-of-pocket costs paid by low-income Americans; without them, insurers would likely exit the markets or be forced to hike premiums significantly. There's a chance that lawsuits could eventually force the Trump administration to make the payments, but with an important premium-setting deadline for 2018 Obamacare rates just weeks away, insurers are already likely to be spooked by the messaging. The Department of Health and Human Services has reportedly not made a final decision on the insurer payments. (Fortune)

Poll: Majority want Congress to move on from health reform. While Obamacare repeal continues to exist in a zombie-like state, Americans appear ready to move on to something else, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. The survey found that just 29% of Americans want Congress to keep working on a new health care bill, and nearly two-thirds of respondents said they either want to preserve Obamacare as is or shore up its problem areas. A bipartisan group of lawmaker recently met to begin proposing certain fixes to the health law. (Reuters)


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