The bidding war for Signify Health, Black engineers battle bias, & AI shakes-up Parkinson’s research

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All signals pointing to in-home care

The auction for Signify Health, which uses analytics to support in-home care, is becoming the most interesting deal to watch in digital health — and not just because of all the big names tossing in multi-billion dollar bids. It’s also become a proxy for where those bidders — from Amazon to CVS to UnitedHealth Group — believe the puck is headed next in the nation’s multi-trillion health care business. Home is clearly seen as the next frontier, and the big-dollar bids for Signify show that these companies believe that better and bigger data is the only way to get there. It’s anyone’s guess how the auction will play out. A new suitor could swoop in out of nowhere, or the whole thing could fall apart. But home-based care is quickly becoming the biggest battlefield in the nation’s biggest business.


AI delivers fresh hope in Parkinson’s research

A new AI system is showing promise at diagnosing Parkinson’s disease by analyzing breathing data. Its ability to suss out the condition is described in a new study led by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The system, trained on breathing data collected from nearly 12,000 nights of sleep, was able to accurately flag patients with Parkinson’s and differentiate them from patients with Alzheimer’s, indicating that it wasn’t just homing in on generic signs of neurologic degeneration. The researchers are working on a follow-up study to examine whether the AI can detect Parkinson’s earlier than conventional methods that rely on subjective assessments by experts.


One reason for optimism: MIT was able to obtain breathing data from a wireless radio transmitter placed in a patient’s bedroom, eliminating the need for clunky sleep belts with tubes that pull out in the middle of the night. Casey has the full story.

Black engineers are rooting out bias in pulse oximeters

During the pandemic, pulse oximeters became even more ubiquitous medical tools. But the clip-on devices, used to monitor the amount of oxygenated blood in a patient’s finger, don’t work as well on people with darker skin — leading to inaccurate readings that can result in delayed care and other disparities. It’s a problem that some Black engineers are now trying to solve with next-generation tech that is less sensitive to skin tone. “There is only one true solution to the problem of inaccurate pulse oximeters,” said University of Michigan pulmonologist Thomas Valley. “And that is to have better pulse oximeters that can be trusted regardless of the color of one’s skin.” Read more on their efforts in our colleague Usha McFarling’s report.

Mystery rounds and news launches

  • Akili Interactive closed its merger with SPAC Social Capital Suvretta Holdings Corp. on Friday, and yesterday began trading on Nasdaq under the symbol AKLI. The therapeutic video game maker closed its first day of trading at just over $7, after opening at $36.
  • Late rounds are happening, even if at a slower pace than last year: Heart monitoring device company AliveCor reported a Series F round led by GE Healthcare, though it declined to specify its size. Also participating in the round are Khosla Ventures, Bold Capital PartnersQualcomm Ventures, and WP Global Partner.
  • Direct-to-consumer health company Thirty Madison has been hit by layoffs again, slashing its workforce by another 10% after cutting 24 jobs in May.
  • Health data broker Datavant is expanding its partnership with analytics company Clarify Health. Using Datavant’s record-linking, it’ll allow life sciences companies to connect their proprietary data from clinical trials to other sources of information, like specialty pharmacy data.
  • Trial Library launched out of stealth with $5 million in funding led by Lux Capital partner Deena Shakir. The oncology clinical trials company supports patient recruitment by providing doctors lists of trials their patients may be eligible for.
  • Patient ride service Uber Health, which claims 3,000 customers in the United States and a 71% increase in bookings between the end of 2020 and end of 2021, announced its expansion into Australia.

Look who got hired

  • Electronic health record giant Epic Systems is losing its corporate counsel and director of health policy and regulatory affairs Alya Sulaiman, who is leaving to join law firm McDermott Will & Emery as a partner in its Los Angeles health care practice.
  • Lon Binder, who has served as chief technology officer of Cityblock Health and Warby Parker, will fill the same role at Ophelia, a startup providing digital medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.

What we’re reading

  • Zapping the brain with electricity shown to boost older people’s short- and long-term memory, STAT
  • FTC threatens to sue firm allegedly revealing abortion clinic visits, Washington Post
  • A dad took photos of his naked toddler for the doctor. Google flagged him as a criminal, New York Times
  • How machine learning and automation can solve biomanufacturing scale-up challenges, STAT First Opinion
Source: STAT