Skip to Content

Brainstorm Health: Health Care Philanthropy, FTC DNA Kit Advice, Obamacare Enrollment Deadline

Happy Friday. Jonah Comstock at published its annual roundup of mergers and acquisitions in the digital health arena today. If you’re looking for where the business appetite is these days, the post makes for instructive reading.

But one of the deals sticks out from the rest: the purchase of Meta by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative back at the start of the year. Meta—which, in the words of cofounder Sam Molyneux, uses “artificial intelligence to analyze new scientific knowledge as it’s published”—partners with academic journals to access many thousands of scientific papers and draw insight from them (beyond the keywords, that is) with the help of a machine learning tool developed by SRI International, which created Apple’s spectral personal assistant, Siri.

The idea, as we’ve written about many times in this space, is similar to what IBM Watson is doing in oncology and other fields (and what the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence’s Semantic Scholar is doing)—and it’s one more reminder of just how integral AI is becoming to healthcare technology.

But it’s also a reminder of something else: of how often philanthropic organizations like CZI are leading the charge today when it comes to championing ambitious new healthcare strategies. Consider Chan Zuckerberg’s Biohub, which is embracing big hairy audacious projects like mapping every cell in the human body (with university partners Berkeley, Stanford, and UCSF) and developing a “universal diagnostic test” and rapid-response team for emerging pathogens.

It’s the same playbook that Sean Parker has been using—and many would say designed—with his Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, meanwhile, has been on the vanguard of no-holds-barred public health campaigns in malaria and HIV—efforts that, to some extent, have helped rewrite the rules of engagement.

For decades, it has seemed, the letters NGO stood for “no go fast.” In the fields of health and medicine, at least, that’s no longer the case.

Enjoy the weekend.

Clifton Leaf, Editor in Chief, FORTUNE


FTC: Use caution when gifting DNA kits. The Federal Trade Commission has a warning out for you digital health gifters: Consider privacy concerns if you’re buying yourself or your friends and family popular new at-home genetic testing kits this holiday season. “Although most tests require just a swab of the cheek, that tiny sample can disclose the biological building blocks of what makes you you,” writes the agency. “The data can be very enlightening personally, but a major concern for consumers should be who else could have access to information about your heritage and your health. If you’re thinking about buying an at-home DNA test kit, you owe it to yourself—and to family members who could be affected—to investigate the options thoroughly.” (Fortune)


Teva gears up for gigantic job cuts. Generic drug giant Teva really is going to cut tens of thousands of jobs in a gigantic restructure for the struggling and debt-laden pharmaceutical—in fact, the 14,000 planned layoffs announced Thursday actually surpass initial reports. The company is trying to slash $3 billion in annual costs from its books, and the job cuts amount to a more than 25% reduction in Teva’s workforce. (FiercePharma)

Alnylam gets the FDA OK to restart hemophilia trial. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given Alnylam Pharmaceuticals the green light to relaunch clinical trials of its treatment for the bleeding disorder hemophilia after pausing the studies after a patient death. Alnylam has been developing drugs that target gene expression in order to prevent to production of certain biological material which can cause devastating diseases. (Reuters)


Today is the last day to sign up for Obamacare. There’s a good chance that most Brainstorm Health readers, like the country at large, have insurance coverage through their employers or a government program like Medicare, Medicaid, or military health plans. But for those who don’t, and who need individual insurance plans, a reminder that this is the last day to sign up for Obamacare coverage in most states. I answer some of the big questions about the end of open enrollment here. (Fortune)


Commentary: The Top 3 Digital Health Trends to Watch In 2018by Amit Phull

The Desperate Search for the Next Great American Ideaby Ryan Bradley

Disney CEO Bob Iger Will See a Massive Payday If the Fox Deal Goes Throughby Natasha Bach

This Startup Is Using AI In Call Centers to Catch Crooksby Adam Lashinsky

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

Find past coverage. Sign up for other Fortune newsletters.