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Brainstorm Health: Hospitals and Harvey, VR Dementia Research, Stem Cell ‘Bad Actors’

August 29, 2017, 3:57 PM UTC

Good morning, readers! This is Sy.

Hurricane Harvey has absolutely devastated Texas cities like Houston with powerful winds and torrential downpours. At least ten deaths have been reported so far (the full figure may become much higher once the flood recedes and authorities can check up on residents), and oil refining capacity has been hit hard, catalyzing a spike in gas prices.

Amid the damage, some area trauma centers have been forced to evacuate and transfer patients to other hospitals. But how does a medical facility even prepare for this level of natural disaster—especially considering the innate unpredictability of a storm?

I spoke with a physician who works at the world renowned University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center on the lessons its administrators learned from Hurricane Allison back in 2001. As you might guess, preparation and constant communication are key. You can read my full writeup of our chat here.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


This VR game may help neuroscientists test dementia. A collection of European organizations—including London game design firm Glitchers, German mobile carrier Deutsche Telekom AG, a variety of universities, patient groups, and tech giants Samsung and Facebook—have collaborated with each other to create a game that may help neuroscientists gather more data on dementia and design a new test for the condition. Sea Hero Quest VR is being released today for the Samsung Gear VR headset and Facebook's Oculus Rift. (Bloomberg)


AstraZeneca, Takeda join forces on Parkinson's drug. British pharma giant AstraZeneca is teaming up with Japan-based Takeda to co-develop an experimental treatment for Parkinson's disease. AstraZeneca will receive up to $400 million as part of the deal, and it gives the company an opportunity to have a neuroscience specialist like Takeda assist in a therapeutic space where AZ hasn't had much historical focus. (Reuters)

FDA grants MDMA "breakthrough" status as PTSD drug. The Food and Drug Administration has granted its coveted "breakthrough" therapy status to MDMA, known for being the main ingredient in the recreational party drug ecstasy, as a treatment for post traumatic stress disorder. In recent years, small trials have shown that the substance may have a significantly positive effect on PTSD patients compared with current therapies. The new designation brings MDMA one step further down the regulatory pathway. (Forbes)


FDA cracks down on stem cell clinics hawking unapproved products. The FDA is beginning to come down on stem cell clinics that sell products not cleared by the agency—including ones that were using modified small pox vaccines as cancer treatments. "There are a small number of unscrupulous actors who have seized on the clinical promise of regenerative medicine, while exploiting the uncertainty, in order to make deceptive, and sometimes corrupt assurances to patients based on unproven and, in some cases, dangerously dubious products," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a statement. (NPR)


Why Storms Like Harvey Could Become the New Normalby Ken Berlin

How Amazon Echo Is Invading Whole Foodsby Kirsten Korosec

This Is the New Uber CEO's Track Record on Gender Equalityby Valentina Zarya

Apple CEO Tim Cook Explains His Company's 'Moral Responsibility'by Don Reisinger

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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