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Brainstorm Health: Health Data Breaches, NIH Precision Medicine Funding, Verastem Approval

Good afternoon, readers. This is Sy.

Health care is a hacker’s playground. The sensitive personal and financial information stored in medical records and the systems which house them offers plenty of opportunities for digital delinquents; in fact, studies have shown that a large share of ransomware attacks are health care-related, likely for this very reason.

A new report says these data breaches are on the rise. An analysis of attacks reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Civil Rights between January 2010 and December 2017—and published in the medical journal JAMA—finds that there were 2,149 such breaches in that time period involving a stunning grand total of 176.4 million patient records.

But the most telling part of the study involves where such hacks occurred. Although, nominally speaking, the largest number of breaches involved health care providers (doctors’ offices, etc), the kinds of attacks that led to the largest amount of stolen patient data happened at the health plan level. In fact, more than 60% of the breaches involving data that was actually stolen stemmed from health plans (and, the authors note, the frequency and severity of breaches have been getting worse year after year).

That is, to put it lightly, extremely unfortunate since this is the kind of information that many researchers and public health experts say is important to have in centralized databases for easy accessibility and research purposes. But it goes to show that centralization, just like data silos, has its own discontents.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Broad Institute, Baylor, others win NIH funding for precision medicine project. The National Institutes of Health’s “All of Us” precision medicine research project—which aims to collect the genomic information of one million Americans in one of America’s most ambitious public health studies—has announced more than $28 million in grants to establish three genome centers. These centers will be led by Baylor College of Medicine, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and the University of Washington, who will be responsible for collecting and analyzing the genetic data under the project. DNA testing firm Color Genomics and the Laboratory for Molecular Medicine at Partners HealthCare will work alongside Broad to interpret genomic information, and Johns Hopkins University and the University of Texas Health Science Center will work with the Baylor-led project.


Verastem nabs an FDA approval—and its stock still plunges. Cancer-focused drug developer Verastem won its first Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval on Monday for the leukemia treatment Copiktra. Yet, the company’s stock fell 20% in Tuesday trading. What explains the discrepancy? It may very well be a case of cashing in—some investors who aren’t, well, all that invested in the firm are heading for the exits and questioning whether Verastem will be able to compete with the big dogs of cancer therapeutics in the long term. Time will tell whether or not that’s a wise bet.

Glaxo TB vaccine shows early promise. An early study of GlaxoSmithKline’s tuberculosis vaccine has shown promising results, reportedly preventing the deadly infectious disease in more than half of patients who receive it. That’s an impressive finding in the TB space, especially if it holds steady in followup studies; but the results also underscore how difficult it’s been to prevent TB when compared with other vaccines for infectious diseases. (Reuters)


StartUp Health raises $31 million from an all-star crew. StartUp Health, an investment firm focused on health care startups attempting to achieve “moonshots” in the medical space, has raised $31 million in a funding round involving big-name partners like Novartis, Ping An Group, Chiesi Group, GuideWell, Otsuka, and Masimo. StartUp has already funded a score of digital health firms like Human Longevity Inc,, and Biome.


Anatomy of a Bull Marketby Nicolas Rapp & Clifton Leaf

Ken Burns’ New Health Care Documentary Explores the Mayo Clinic—Here’s a Sneak Peekby Sy Mukherjee

The ‘Learn-It-All’ Mindset Beats the ‘Know-It-All’ At Microsoftby Adam Lashinsky

Goldman Sachs Wants to Be a Tech Company. Here’s Why It Won’t Be Easyby Lucinda Shen

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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