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Brainstorm Health: Suicide Rates, AstraZeneca Cancer Miss, Alphabet’s Glucose Lens Fail

November 16, 2018, 9:48 PM UTC

Happy Friday, readers!

Friday gave way to one small example of the constant tug-of-war in life sciences’ expectations game. And it involved two of the biggest names in pharmaceuticals and tech.

Google parent Alphabet’s life sciences arm, Verily, announced that it would be halting its ambitious glucose monitoring smart lens project, one of the technology giant’s splashiest initiatives. The sci-fi seeming project would have involved monitoring glucose levels through diabetes patients’ very tears, and was being conducted in conjunction with Novartis’ Alcon eye care unit.

Here’s what Verily had to say in a statement:

Our clinical work on the glucose-sensing lens demonstrated that there was insufficient consistency in our measurements of the correlation between tear glucose and blood glucose concentrations to support the requirements of a medical device. In part, this was associated with the challenges of obtaining reliable tear glucose readings in the complex on-eye environment. For example, we found that interference from biomolecules in tears resulted in challenges in obtaining accurate glucose readings from the small quantities of glucose in the tear film. In addition, our clinical studies have demonstrated challenges in achieving the steady state conditions necessary for reliable tear glucose readings.

Verily added, however, that it would continue to work on a number of Alcon-related initiatives in the “smart” contact lens space, including one aimed at post-cataract surgery patients.

Read on for the day’s news, and have a wonderful weekend.

Sy Mukherjee


UnitedHealthcare offering Apple Watch under Motion program. Apple Watch mania continues to take hold among legacy health industry players—especially UnitedHealthcare, the insurance/hospital/wellness giant that appears to have a finger on the pulse of flashy digital health trends. The company is further expanding its programs for potential wearable buyers by offering UnitedHealthcare Motion participants incentives toward paying off an Apple Watch's price by meeting certain activity goals.


AstraZeneca slips on lung cancer results. Shares of British drug giant AstraZeneca fell about 2% in Friday trading after the company announced that its cancer immunotherapy drug Imfinzi didn't meet its primary goal for advanced lung cancer patients. The treatment failed to improve overall survival compared with placebo in a certain subset of advanced patients; it's a blow to the company's ambitions in the hotly contested immuno-oncology space. (Reuters)


A grim picture of American suicide by profession. An upsetting, if revealing, new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report delves into the specifics of America's suicide epidemic—by profession. "Overall, U.S. suicide rates continue to climb in nearly every state, going up year over year since 1999, including for teens. In the study released Thursday by the CDC, researchers noted that rates rose the most between 2012 and 2015 for males working in the category that includes arts, media, and sports. The rates rose most for females working in food preparation and serving-related jobs," writes my colleague Brittany Shoot. (Fortune)


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How Tofurky Wants to Save the World, One Roast at a Time, by John Patrick Pullen

Scientists' Long Wait to Redefine the Kilogram Is Finally Overby Lucas Laursen

Your Phone's GPS Is About to Get More Accurateby Emily Price

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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