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Brainstorm Health: Livongo Acquisition, Israeli Cancer ‘Cure’, Roche Alzheimer’s Failure

January 30, 2019, 10:33 PM UTC

Hello and happy hump day, readers.

On Wednesday, the digital health-powered chronic disease management firm Livongo announced it was acquiring Denver-based myStrength, a company focused on digital behavioral health programs for conditions like depression, anxiety, and even chronic pain.

If that sounds familiar, it might be because, less than a month ago, Livongo rival Omada Health announced its own planned expansion into depression treatment. At the time, Omada CEO Sean Duffy told me of the great promise in connecting such conditions into an integrated platform. And it might be a good bet to expect more announcements along these lines for tech-fueled companies currently focused on chronic metabolic and cardiovascular disorders like diabetes and hypertension.

Livongo, Omada, Virta Health, and others have done what (to this day, anyways) precious few digital health companies have been able to: They’ve produced real world outcomes that have even earned the firms federal reimbursement. And the fact that, like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension maintenance, chronic mental health disorders could benefit from sustained digital coaching, helps explain why the Livongos of the world are choosing this expansion avenue.

As Livongo itself says: “Approximately 135 million Americans suffer from at least one chronic condition and 20 percent of adults are also dealing with a behavioral health issue. The addition of myStrength will allow Livongo members to seamlessly manage their chronic conditions and behavioral health on one platform with a clinical grade solution that is at the same time focused on the typical health consumer.”

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


China sets off on effort to clone gene-edited monkeys. Nature reports that a Chinese effort to clone monkeys with edited genomes for the purpose of studying various disease mechanisms is underway. The hope is that replicating macacque monkeys, commonly used in drug research, with various genes turned on and off can lend more nuance to our understanding of how diseases like Alzheimer's and others progress. (Nature)


Does Roche's latest Alzheimer's failure foretell Biogen's doom? Last evening, Swiss pharma giant Roche announced that its Alzheimer's drug hopeful being developed alongside partner AC Immune had failed in a pair of late-stage clinical trials for early stage disease. This wasn't exactly an unexpected result given previous interim data suggesting the treatment wasn't effective; but it may be yet another bad signal for Biogen, a company that's stuck to its ambitious Alzheimer's program, in the space. Indeed, Bigoen shares fell 2% in Wednesday trading even as broader markets rose more than 2%.

An Israeli team's cancer "cure" ambition comes under scrutiny. A team of Israeli scientists came out with an ambitious claim yesterday suggesting it was on track to develop a cancer "cure" in a matter of years. That claim, from Ness Ziona’s Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies, is coming under a mountain of scrutiny from American and Israeli experts who say they haven't seen the research. The company's defense, in an interview to the Times of Israel, was that it couldn't "afford" to publish its "very good" findings in a medical journal at this time. (Times of Israel)


Two takes on the vaping debate. File this one under the Department of Complicated (But Not Mutually Exclusive) Findings: One study finds that vaping is superior to conventional smoking cessation methods like nicotine gum and patches at getting users to quit. The same one finds that people who quit tobacco by switching to vaping were likely to, well, keep vaping. And then another study found that use of e-cigarettes is linked to a higher chance of stroke, heart disease, and heart attacks. Public health is... Complicated.


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Apple May Be Facebook's Toughest Regulatorby Jonathan Vanian

Why Goldman Sachs Thinks a Catastrophic No-Deal Brexit Is Now More Likelyby David Meyer

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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