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Holmes trial set to resume, with more insider testimony
The fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes is scheduled to resume today after Friday’s proceedings were canceled due to a juror’s’ concern that he’d been exposed to Covid-19. The first witness called by prosecutors was former Theranos financial controller So Han Spivey, who testified that the company went years without an audit. You can expect more of the same in coming days as prosecutors seek to establish an environment of lawlessness tied to Holmes’s leadership.
If last week’s proceedings drew the battle lines, they also made clear that lawyers on both sides are digging in for a very long trial. In expressing concern over Friday’s cancellation, U.S. Assistant Attorney Jeff Schenk referred to a long list of witnesses the prosecution expects to call “over the next several months.”
A research platform built for All of Us
The U.S. national research program All of Us is gaining steam, as researchers around the country begin to answer questions with its centralized pot of diverse patient data. One study out of the Yale School of Medicine last week used survey and electronic health record data to understand the burden of cardiovascular disease in the U.S. among underrepresented groups, finding disproportionate impacts for Black participants, older adults, participants with a disability, and those with income below $35,000. Another analysis, published this week by Mayo Clinic researchers, looked for attributes associated with a high risk of lung cancer, validating 40 significant associations in a group that went on to develop cancer—including 15 new ones that could be used to improve cancer screening using existing health records.
Quote of the week
“I think the journey for tech in health has been learning to appreciate that health is very personal, very complicated, that there’s not a single point solution, and often that the solutions come from outside the traditional medical system. You also have to recognize that health care has rules, because it’s life or death. There’s a lot of regulations and there’s a lot of structure that has to be followed.”
That’s what Karen DeSalvo, Google’s chief health officer, told Erin when asked about whether tech can live up to its bold promises in health care. With Google reorganizing its health division and Verily making a concerted push to commercialize, it’s an especially relevant question right now.
Hacking the hackers
The University of Minnesota has founded a new Center for Medical Device Cybersecurity to develop new technologies and conduct research and training to address emerging threats. The work will be funded by medical device companies such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific, and Abbott Laboratories that want to find and fix potential vulnerabilities in their products. During its first year the new center will host hackathons, roundtables, and other events to support its work. While its efforts will focus on medical devices, a similar approach may be needed to help hospitals respond to an increasing number of ransomware attacks that are shutting down their IT systems and exposing the data of millions of patients.
Managing a pandemic in a data desert
Here’s some distressing, if unsurprising, news from the Office of the National Coordinator: Half of the nation’s hospitals lack the ability to electronically exchange information with public health agencies. The finding, contained in a new data brief, highlights the challenges the health care system has faced in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Data from hospitals is needed by public health agencies to support outbreak surveillance, case reporting, and immunization tracking. The agency’s brief, based on data from 2018 and 2019, also found that seven in 10 hospitals faced one or more challenges related to public health reporting and that those issues were disproportionately concentrated at critical access hospitals and smaller independent facilities in rural areas.
Rounding up the rounds
- Women’s health startup Tia announced a $100 million Series B funding round, following a partnership with the Catholic CommonSpirit Health system to open more physical concierge clinics. The new clinics will supplement Tia’s app and virtual clinic approach to primary and gynecological care.
- Meanwhile, virtual-only Babyscripts, which provides prenatal and postpartum support with an app and remote monitoring devices, raised $12 million in a Series B round led by MemorialCare Innovation Fund.
- Danish startup Corti.ai announced a $27 million Series A funding round for its medical language-processing technology. First deployed to analyze emergency calls, it plans to use machine learning to document and code primary care visits.
- Mammoth Biosciences, one of the CRISPR startups co-founded by Nobel laureate Jennifer Doudna, raised$195 million in its last two rounds. After a pivot to develop a CRISPR-based Covid-19 test, the newly-inaugurated biotech unicorn will turn its attention to gene-editing therapeutics.
- In other mammoth news, Harvard scientist George Church may make good on his promise to bring back the extinct woolly mammoth, STAT reports. Church and colleagues raised an initial $15 million for CRISPR company Colossal, which aims to genetically reengineer Asian elephants to be more mammoth-like.
Carbon Health + Olivia Pope = ??
- AI-powered drug development company Insitro hired Tom Stocky, who previously led search at Facebook and directed product management at Google, as its new VP of product. In a new Q&A, Erin asked Stocky what tools from the tech world don’t work when applied to biotech. Read more here.
- Primary care provider Carbon Health has added two new members to its board of directors, including one with a whiff of Scandal. Judy Smith, the crisis advisor who served as the inspiration for Olivia Pope’s character in the TV show, joins career CFO Christine Gorjanc as the company looks to build 1,500 clinics by 2025 and meld in-person and virtual care.
- Online cognitive behavioral therapy company Ieso appointed its first executive vice president for impact: Andrew Welchman joins the NHS-serving company after heading up neuroscience and mental health at the Wellcome Trust.
- iRhythm, which makes cardiac monitoring wearables, has appointed Quentin Blackford as its new CEO. Blackford comes from diabetes device company Dexcom, where he served as chief operating officer and chief financial officer.
- After going public via a SPAC merger, clinical and genomic data company Sema4 has appointed a new chief science officer. Gustavo Stolovitzky joins from IBM Research, where he led exploratory life sciences.
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