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A nudge from AI pinpoints ketamine as a potential rare disease treatment
In the seven difficult years since their son Mateo was diagnosed with a rare disease called ANDP syndrome, Victoria Malvagno and Frank Solorzano have been waiting for medicine to catch up with their lives. In 2019, the ANDP community got a breakthrough — not from a drug developer, or a doctor’s office, but from an artificial intelligence tool. The system, called mediKanren, sifted through millions of abstracts and rapidly pinpointed an unexpected target: ketamine.
The boost from AI and ketamine’s status as a repurposed drug allowed the first stages of research to happen in record time. Last month, researchers reported early safety results from a study of ketamine in 10 kids, including Mateo, now a rambunctious 13-year-old. But for all the benefit AI brought, rare disease research remains challenging, and the next phase of the clinical trial will be extremely costly. “For us as parents, it can’t happen fast enough,” Malvagno told Katie. Read more in Katie’s new story.
A first for ‘artificial pancreas’ research
Artificial pancreases were a breakthrough for type 1 diabetes. Now, more research is getting underway into how the systems — which work by pairing a glucose sensor with an insulin pump to automatically adjust doses of the drug — might help people with type 2 diabetes. This week, a team of researchers reported results from a trial with 26 patients who tested the closed-loop system, all of whom had type 2 diabetes and needed dialysis for kidney failure, which can dramatically impact glucose levels. The system improved the time participants spent in their target glucose range by about 15%; its users also managed to avoid bouts of severe low glucose while reducing overall glucose levels. Katie has the full story.
Remote care and radiology companies bag more funding
- You heard it here first: radiology software company Sirona Medical emerged from stealth with $22.5 million in Series A funding led by 8VC. It also announced partnerships with five U.S. radiology practices to develop RadOS, its radiology operating system.
- Cricket Health, maker of a digital management tool for kidney disease, closed an $83.5 million Series B round led by Valtruis. The round also included existing investors Oak HC/FTand Cigna Ventures.
- Microbiome tech startup DayTwo raised $37 million in a round led by Cathay Innovation and aMoon. The company also appointed a new CEO, David Henderson, a former founding executive of Oscar Health.
DOJ says ‘hang on a sec’ to United’s acquisition of Change
The U.S. Department of Justice is considering a lawsuit blocking UnitedHealth’s $8 billion purchase of Change Healthcare and in recent weeks, has contacted private attorneys outside the department to inquire about leading the litigation, The Information reported. First announced in January, the deal would see the nation’s largest insurer buy Change Healthcare, a health IT company. Several organizations have expressed opposition to the deal, including competing insurers and the hospital lobbying group the American Hospital Association.
Chutes & ladders
- Neil Parikh, the former president of Oscar Health, joined virtual-first care company Thirty Madisonas president of medical services.
- Virtual care company Omada Healthhired Steve Cook, the former VP and head of strategic finance at One Medical, as CFO.
- Melisa Tucker, who previously served as VP of product management and operations at Flatiron Health, joined health care revenue cycle management startup Nymas SVP and head of product.
- Digital biology company Recursion Pharmaceuticals hired David Lilienfeld as senior director of safety, pharmacovigilance, and epidemiology. Lilienfeld previously served as senior director for medical safety at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
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