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Brainstorm Health: Athenahealth Bid, Obamacare Fast Food Rules, $1.5 Million Gene Therapy

Happy Monday, readers. I hope you had a wonderful weekend—this is Sy.

Paul Singer’s activist hedge fund Elliott Management has its sights set on a new target: Athenahealth, the medical software, health IT, and data analytics firm run by CEO Jonathan Bush, an outspoken evangelist of the digital health revolution. Elliott took a 9.2% stake in Athenahealth last year and is now making a $160-per-share, $6.5 billion all-cash offer to snap up the company outright, CNBC reports.

That’s a premium of nearly 30% to Athenahealth’s closing price on Friday (and Athena shares promptly jumped 16% in Monday trading following reports of the deal). The question now is whether or not Bush and his board of directors are game for the M&A.

Elliott, for its part, wasn’t exactly gentle in explaining a rationale for the deal: “It is clear to us and becoming clear to many others that Athenahealth’s potential will never be realized without the kind of operational change that the company seems unable to deliver,” wrote the firm in a letter announcing the offer, adding that Elliott and others had approached Athenahealth last year but been rebuffed.

It’s unclear what path Athenahealth will take (the company issued a boilerplate missive about reviewing the unsolicited proposal on Monday). One key factor, other than Bush, may be the company’s recently-appointed, high-profile chairman: former GE CEO Jeff Immelt.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Color Genomics launches its population health platform. DNA testing company Color Genomics is expanding its ambitions. On Monday, the firm announced a new population health initiative centered on cancer and high cholesterol risk genomic tests. “Through this partnership, the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health and Thomas Jefferson University; The University of Chicago; University of California, San Francisco; and The University of Washington will be able to provide genetic testing to their patients,” Color said in a press release. The move comes in an age of booming demand for these kinds of tests, which have become surprisingly popular consumer products in the past year.

Khosla’s far-out prediction for digital health. Vinod Khosla is out with yet another audacious claim about the future of digital health, asserting at the Health Innovation Summit in San Francisco that 80% of doctors will be replaced by machines in the future (and that “entrepreneurs” rather than medical professionals will drive health care in said future). A number of analysts, including futurist-digital-health enthusiasts, took some issue with Khosla’s prediction. (WiRED)


A $1.5 million gene therapy? Gene therapies that, in effect, cure or vastly improve the blood clotting disorder hemophilia (and perhaps aren’t too far from the market) could come with astronomical, record-shattering price tags, Leerink analysts argued on Monday in a research note: “It appears the seemingly impervious million-dollar threshold may be breached with hemophilia gene therapy, which could do so while still creating value for society by reducing the cost of factor replacement therapy,” wrote analysts Joseph Schwartz and Dae Gon Ha. If that does come to pass, it would be yet another example of a milestone biotech innovation accompanied by a milestone price.


Obamacare’s fast food calorie labeling rule is finally going into effect. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is pushing through a long-delayed Obamacare regulation under Commissioner Scott Gottlieb: A requirement that chain restaurants and vending machines prominently display calorie information. The rule has floundered through the years (it wasn’t even finalized until three years after the health law’s passage); now, a Trump administration official is making it a reality. (Fortune)


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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