From Iceland to White House, Precision Medicine’s Promises & Hurdles – Xconomy

WatchNot just the promise of precision medicine, but the long haul until that promise is fulfilled

A great post on the Xconomy website from one of my favorite writer: Alex Lash.

In this post (definitely worth a look!!), he extracted the key points from what happened last week about the advances in precision medicine (personalized drugs for specific group of people).

The two events from last week: 1. Iceland’s deCODE Genetics (subsidiary of Amgen) published research studies covering detailed genomic information about that island nation’s people. 2. Governments (US and UK) initiatives were launched to build large health databases.

For this enormous data collection to be a success, it is essential to change the patient’s perception. He/She will have to engage for the future of care and be considered as a person (and not a number) by all the health care providers and researchers. Collective intelligence and collaboration will enable the success of these initiatives.

Xconomy article

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Q1 2015 – An exciting quarter for the pharma industry – Financial Times


Is bigger better?

During the 1st quarter of 2015, the total deal value in the healthcare industry walked through the ceiling of USD 90 billion… Patent expiries looming on the horizon were one of the main rationale behind this M&A fever.

Some of the Q1 2015 biggest deals:

  • AbbVie & Pharmacyclics – USD 21 billion
  • Pfizer & Hospira – USD 16.8 billion
  • Valean & Salix Pharmaceuticals – USD 15.8 billion
  • UnitedHealth & Catamaran – USD 12.8 billion

Securing valuable and strategic assets seemed crucial in these last moves. But the prices paid were quite high.

FT Article    Bloomberg Article

How Big Pharma GlaxoSmithKline is managing its R&D Collaborations – Xconomy


Being close to scientific innovators is key

Cambridge and San Diego are two main centers for innovation in life sciences, according to GlaxoSmithKline. Actually the big pharma established a “first-of-its-kind collaboration” with San Diego’s Avalon Ventures in 2013; lastly it has opened a small office in San Diego to manage its R&D partnerships and to prospect for more deals on the West Coast. GSK also set up a similar outpost in 2014 in Kendall Square, the Cambridge, MA, neighborhood that has become the pharmaceutical industry’s East Coast hub and is close to Harvard, MIT, and the Broad Institute.

Xconomy article

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WHO urges Europeans to work together to counter high drug prices – Reuters

More collaboration, more transparency & more value for money

DoctorsPatientsThere is a lot of fragmentation in European healthcare systems. Some of them have very comprehensive methodologies to assess the value of medicines, others are lacking these processes. Moreover, drug supply and prices are negotiated between stakeholders without making discounts and rebates publicly available.

Assessing the economic benefit of drugs is crucial today.

The last link is very interesting as it will land you on the page of the European Observatory on Health Systems & Policies website where you could find resourceful reports on health systems currently established in Europe.

Reuters article    WHO website    European Observatory on Health Systems & Policies website

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The true value of a life is not about the pharmaceutical costs – Financial Times

Drug pricing should be re-thought & Government should commit more according to John Kay

lifeA very interesting article in the Financial Times written by a well-known economist, John Kay, about life.

His conclusion: “Perhaps the greatest challenges in modern healthcare are not those of meeting the spiralling cost of advanced medical technologies. They lie in accepting that we are all going to die, and learning to do so with dignity.”

The business model of the pharma industry is based on drugs against chronic diseases (mass markets). Huge volumes of pills at moderate prices = covering the expenditure involved in drug development and clinical trials + good profits. However, less and less drugs fit that model, especially with the emergence of personalized medicine (drugs tailored to the specific DNA profile of each patient).

John Kay is talking a lot about Sovaldi (an HCV drug marketed by Gilead) and its very high price point. Personally, I think that despite the high price, this drug will cure people and it’s worth the spend. On the contrary, cancer drugs only prolong life without curing and, maybe, without a decent quality of life for the patient (especially at the end), and they have extremely high price tags. Another example: antibiotics. They have low price tag and they cure and very often save the lives of people.

As quoted by John Kay: “Perhaps governments should finance the payment of a national licence fee for drugs, with supplies then made available at a price close to production cost. A rising proportion of medical expenditure is now devoted to prolonging the lives of the very old and the terminally ill. The costs of this are potentially unlimited.”

I expect a real rethink of the whole drug pricing system. We should pay for the outcomes, for the real value delivered to the patients and the healthcare system.

FT article    Link to the article on John Kay website

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From Snitch Pill to Xbox Sensors, Novartis Goes Digital – Bloomberg

Reinventing the pharma industry is unavoidable and will be driven by digital health


A list of some of the projects at Novartis relying on digital health:

  • pills and inhalers with sensors that will improve patient adherence by reminding them to take their medicine (Proteus Digital Health);
  • clinical tests that rely on Microsoft’s Kinect, the motion-sensing technology used with Xboxes, to measure walking speed and balance in people with multiple sclerosis;
  • Google contact lenses that focus automatically and can measure diabetics’ blood-sugar levels from their tears;
  • remote monitoring of patients with technologies developed by companies funded through the USD 100 million fund founded by Novartis and Qualcomm.

Bloomberg article    Beyond The Pill – Bain & Co    Value Solutions Arrive As a Strategic Commercial Driver

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Doctors Are Now Inviting Patients To Help Design Their Own Medical Treatment – Huffington Post

Doctors are now proposing more than one option to cancer patients

CollaborationIt is a great step forward in collaborative thinking for the treatment of patients. Including patients opinion in the decision for their own treatment and quality of life will empower them and allow them to feel they have a voice which is heard.

In many hospitals around the world, oncologists and surgeons simply tell cancer patients what treatments they should have. But in the US, at UC San Francisco, under a formal process called “shared decision making,” doctors and patients are working together to make choices about care.

Each patient is unique and there is no single answer to treat them all with the same combination of drugs and therapies.

Huffington Post article    Collaborative thinking in healthcare

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What Your Tweets Say About You – The New Yorker

Analyzing what is posted online to detect positive and negative emotions, and even heart attack trends

This article shows that you can learn a lot from what is posted online. It is like in real life when you talk to someone, if you know her/him well you can say pretty quickly what’s wrong or whether she/he’s feeling good about her-/himself or her/his level of stress.

What is more interesting is that it has been used in a  recent study to detect trends about heart attacks in the U.S. However, we need to be cautious as people active in social media are not the same as people dying from the disease. Researchers explained that even if people are not the same, the activity in social media can be influenced by the context, the local community, the neighborhood, and reflect a reality in a specific area. The question of causality remains and we are all aware of spurious correlations between 2 trends that have nothing in common.

It will be fascinating to see if more studies based on social media analysis will emerge and what will be the conclusions.

The New Yorker article

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You’re The Doctor Now, And Your Office Is In Your House – Fast Company

DIY Tools and Telemedicine could help patients stay at home for a doctor’s appointment

TelemedicineThis article is one among the World-Changing Ideas edited by Fast Company. At-home diagnostic tests can change the way we interact with our family doctor. This article shows several tools that can help us in diagnosing diseases and seeking help by calling a healthcare professional when necessary.

This trend has 2 implications: it can help emerging markets and remote areas but in developed countries it will contribute in containing healthcare costs.

Fast Company article    WHO Report on Telemedicine (2009)

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3 key challenges to health IT – HealthcareDIVE

Beyond the implementation challenges of health IT

MazeThere are several challenges once health IT has been implemented. HealthcareDIVE mentioned 3 main issues:

1. Maintaining EHRs (Electronic Health Records)

2. Addressing physician concerns

3. Leveraging meaningful use

HealthcareDIVE article    Trends in EHRs use (2014 National Health Statistics Report)

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From Fee-for-Service to Fee-for-Value – Strategy+Business

Medicare is starting a new paradigm in paying for healthcare – focus on outcomes and not volume

SuperiorAppliancesSwitching from volume-based to value-based payments is key to the sustainability of the healthcare system. Why? Because all the healthcare providers will be encouraged to focus on the outcomes for the patients instead of the number of procedures undertaken for him or her.

It is not a new principle: the first author who has been speaking about Value in Healthcare is M. E. Porter in 2006 when he published a book about it. Since then, he committed a lot to raise the awareness about the importance and extent of this concept. He founded the Harvard Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness which dedicates a research area to healthcare.

I think it is really the direction where we have to go if we want to provide care to all people without wealth discrimination.

Strategy+Business article

How can we address the high price of cancer drugs? – Mayo Clinic

The high price for cancer drugs is not only a burden for patients but also for the whole society

Affordability is one of the key word coming back every time we speak about cancer drugs. This time, oncologists are joining the cancer price revolt. The Mayo Clinic published a 4-minute video really worth watching and an article detailing all the points where oncologists can act upon.

Cancer care is not only the issue for the patient but for all the stakeholders (doctors, healthcare providers, insurances, governments, relatives,…). We all need to team up to find solutions. Mayo Clinic is giving us a starting point.

The Mayo Clinic Article    The Mayo Clinic Proceedings Article

Finding success in failing early – Life Sci VC

Fast fail is the best advice for any biotech company


This blog post comes from one of my favorite blog about life sciences. Killing early unsuccessful projects is necessary to ensure a better long-term vision for the whole company. Observations and lessons: 1. Think about the end at the beginning; 2. Team spirit with truth-seeking mentality; 3. Sooner rather than later; 4. Listen to the market.

Life Sci VC Blog post

Mental health – The first steps of digital technology – Xconomy

Several digital therapies are under development to help treat mental illnesses

SadnessWe are just at the beginning of a new way to help patients: digital therapies. However, as of today, few apps, games or virtual reality software led to patient outcomes.

Personally, I think it is quite normal as mental health is a long-term ailment and cannot be treated in one single day. We need more long-term perspective on the real outcomes. Another crucial point to mention: in mental health, patients start to feel better when they are heard and understood by doctors, nurses and relatives; when they can put a word on the malaise they are feeling daily; when you take time with them.

Mental illnesses are a huge burden for the society as demonstrated in a recent study by The Economist.

In the next future there will be a combo of chemical drugs supported by apps that will help patients to better cope with their disease and to better adhere to the treatment schedule and regimen.

Find out more:

Xconomy article

Akili (video games to treat autism, ADHD, depression, traumatic brain injury)

Pear Therapeutics (linking prescription drugs with apps)

Bravemind (PTSD treatment for veterans)

The Economist Report – Mental Health & Integration

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Hackathon to drive medical innovation – MIT

A new type of event is emerging to drive medical innovation

HealthHackathonHow to solve medical issues by collaborative thinking? The hackathon finds its origins in the IT world. According to Wikipedia, the phenomenon started in 1999 in Calgary where 10 developers came together to avoid legal problems caused by export regulations of cryptographic software from the US.

This type of event is well-known in the IT world but much less in the medical one. The MIT is however leading the trend and driving the move with its website dedicated to hackathons in medicine & health innovation. Their website is rich and well-populated by press articles and resources.

Collaborative thinking could really make the difference and attendees seemed to like that!!! A perfect win-win situation for all.

Attendee testimonial    Article from Wired

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New ‘Molecule-Making Machine’ Could Speed The Development Of Life-Saving Drugs – Huffington Post

3-D printing at a molecular level could lead to advances in drug development but not only…

A very interesting discovery made by Dr. Martin D. Burke, a professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Why is it a revolution?

The traditional way of synthesizing small molecules requires a step-by-step series of chemical reactions–a process that is time-consuming and which requires enormous expertise. The new printer simplifies the molecule-making process and makes it accessible to non-chemists.

Read the article

Virtual drug screening – Google Blog

When Google enters the drug discovery landscape

testtubesThis blog post by Google is deeply interesting as it shows how the “new economy” companies like Google could help the “old economy firms” like the Big Pharma. Bringing new cheaper medicine faster to the patients is important today but will be key in the future as health systems will not be able to cope with never-ending rising healthcare costs. Maybe Google has the solution to help us all?

Google blog post   Venture Beat opinion    The Research paper

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The Power of Herd Immunity – TED Talks

How do vaccines prevent disease — even among people too young to get vaccinated?

child_patient_vaccineIt’s a concept called “herd immunity,” and it relies on a critical mass of people getting their shots to break the chain of infection. Health researcher Romina Libster shows how herd immunity contained a deadly outbreak of H1N1 in her hometown.

Today we have TOOLS (vaccines) that can protect the lives of the most vulnerable people. Why some people still refuse to use them?

Listen to this insightful talk    How vaccines work?

The Future of Health Is More, Better, Cheaper – Strategy+Business

digital_technologyConsumer will take more power in health-related decision and will drive the market

Within a decade, the health business will look and feel much more like other consumer-oriented, technology-enabled industries . It will have its own Amazon-style, iconic brands—companies that give consumers an easy way to access information, doctors, and treatments; provide them with a variety of services and products at a variety of prices; and centralize their care through user-friendly interfaces. And thanks to this growing trend, plenty of entrants into the market would like nothing better than to upend the old model of care, empowering consumers while taking some of the industry’s annual US$2.9 trillion market for themselves.

Read more   More on Digital Health

U.S. Rx Spending Increased 13.1% in 2014

The Express Scripts Drug Trend Report shows amazing trends

Charts3The 19th edition of the Express Scripts Drug Trend Report reveals new hepatitis C therapies with high price tags and the exploitation of loopholes for compounded medications drove a 13.1% increase in U.S. drug spending in 2014 – a rate not seen in more than a decade. Hepatitis C and compounded medications are responsible for more than half of the increase in overall spending. Excluding those two therapy classes, 2014 drug trend (the year-over-year increase in per capita drug spending) was 6.4%.

The Report    The Summary