DTx startup takes on a childhood eye disease & Jonathan Bush on the Cures Act

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Old data, new tricks

Atropos Health, a new company spun out from Stanford on Wednesday, hopes to succeed in one of the elusive challenges of digital medicine: Using troves of data from old patients to improve care for new ones. The new company aims to build a business out of a service that can consult past records to help answer questions like what drugs might work for certain cancer patients. As Casey notes in a new story, even in a world where it seems desired information is always just a click away, the health care industry has been hamstrung by poor data quality and skittishness around using a computer’s advice to direct care. A published review of the tool’s early patient cases illustrated that it could indeed help inform decision making.

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DTx takes on childhood amblyopia

Amblyopia, a disorder that leads to weaker vision in one eye and impacts 3% of young children, is often treated with the help of glasses or a patch, but many kids are left with lasting effects. Dichoptic therapy, an intervention that seeks to balance eyes with visual stimuli, has shown promise but failed in several trials. A company called Luminopia thinks it’s cracked the problem with its treatment, which applies the intervention to appealing video content like TV shows and movies, viewed through a head-mounted display. In a Phase 3 trial, 105 children aged 4 to 7 years were randomized into experimental and comparison groups. After 12 weeks, the group using Lumitopia’s treatment saw more improvement on an important vision metric than those receiving standard care. The company says the results are significant and under review by the FDA for possible de novo pre-market approval.

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FTC clarifies health app makers must tell customers about breaches 

The Federal Trade Commission issued a policy statement saying that the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule applies to companies that make apps or connected devices that collect or use consumer health data, meaning they must tell users and the FTC when the data is breached. In a meeting yesterday, FTC chair Lina Khan warned that “digital apps are routinely caught playing fast and loose with user data, leaving users’ sensitive health information susceptible to hacks and breaches.”

What ethics?

Thanks to omnipresent wearables, digital measurements like heart rate and movement are rapidly becoming fixtures of medical care and clinical research. But a new study from the Digital Medicine Society, or DiME, reveals some alarming blindspots in the research supporting their development. Academics and industry alike have invested considerable time and money in validating the measures, but very little work has been done on important issues like ethics, security, and data rights. Though the research gaps aren’t surprising for a young field, the authors say it’s crucial to get an early start on the thorny issues before inertia takes hold. Katie has the whole story.

A surgical first: ‘If you can learn from me, do it’

Before undergoing a surgical first that would change his life, Iraq war veteran and bomb attack survivor Jerry Majetich lived with intense pain in his right arm for 15 years. Then he chose to have the limbamputated in a new kind of operation that preserves the sense of proprioception, the brain’s ability to sense where a limb is in space and how it’s moving. And while the pain in his hand went away, Majetich’s main motivation for having the surgery was helping other veterans, he told STAT’s Gideon Gil. “Being the first was exciting to me, but it wasn’t necessarily for me,” he said. “If it’s going to help the next troops to come through with this new surgery, if you can learn from me, do it.”

Overheard this week

It’s “like when Reagan opened up weather data that we now enjoy through all our apps.”

That’s what Jonathan Bush, the founder of health records startup Zus, said about the recent passage of the federal information blocking rule during a panel at the Rock Health Summit in San Francisco. Bush, the former CEO of medical IT giant athenahealth and cousin to former President George W. Bush, said the rule could transform the digital health landscape by giving patients unprecedented access to their health data via apps. Still, he added, “I’m not holding my breath.”

Transaction action

  • Senior coordinated care company Clover Health partnered with health care logistics startup MedArrive to deliver in-home Covid vaccinations to its Medicare Advantage members in New Jersey.
  • Cured, a health care digital marketing and CRM company, raised a $10 million Series A led by DNA Capital.
  • Rune Labs, maker of a cloud platform for brain data, raised $22.8 million in Series A funding in a round led by Eclipse Ventures with participation from current investors including DigiTx and Moment Ventures. As part of the raise, Eclipse partner Justin Butler will join Rune’s BOD.

Who got a new job?

  • K.-based medical software startup Optellum hired Jason Pesterfield as CEO to lead growth in the U.S. clinical market. Pesterfield was previously the director and CEO of lung cancer software company Olympus Veran Technologies.
  • Psychiatric care startup Talkiatry appointed Alex Kozersky as chief growth officer. He recently held jobs at Trellus Health and Talkspace.

What we’re reading

Source: STAT