The Longevity

New Brunswick Launches Canada’s First Innovation Hub to Support Tech Solutions for Aging

The Canadian province of New Brunswick recently launched the country's first innovation hub focused on tech solutions for the aging.

The New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF), in collaboration with the AGE–WELL Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE), is launching Advancing Policies and Practices in Technology and Aging (APPTA), an innovation hub dedicated to building tech that supports healthy aging.

AGE-WELL NCE said the APPTA hub, which officially opened on May 16 in Fredericton, will focus mainly on developing technologies and solutions for policy, program, and service challenges in the field of technology and aging. The hub is meant to allow Canadians to benefit from emerging technologies that foster independent living and improve the quality of life for aging adults.

The goal is to help entrepreneurs get to market with their products and services designed to support healthy aging.

Lisa Harris, New Brunswick’s minister of seniors and long-term care [said], “We are delighted to be the host province for a hub that will be a national resource for policymakers, researchers, clinicians, and others working to implement novel technologies that will improve the health and wellbeing of older Canadians and their caregivers.”

The APPTA hub will help entrepreneurs take their ideas to market by connecting them to end users, policymakers, and service providers. AGE-WELL NCE said it will also bring training opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from the field of technology and aging. AGE-WELL and NBHRF will jointly fund the salaries of four individuals annually.

“This hub will promote knowledge-sharing and effective transfer of needed technologies right across Canada," [said] Bruno Battistini, president, CEO, and scientific director of NBHRF and a co-sponsor of the hub.

One Year After Launch, Israeli Digital Health Incubator has First Portfolio Company

A year ago, at MedCity INVEST, their national healthcare investing conference, eHealth ventures announced that it had secured a tender from the Office of the Chief Scientist in Israel to run a digital health incubator. Now, the incubator has invested in its first portfolio business.

Tom Sudow, director of business development with Cleveland Clinic Innovations, which is a partner in the fund...gave an update on the venture in a phone interview with MedCity News.

TikTalk2Me is a digital health company taking on speech therapy. Its approach combines gaming with speech therapy and voice recognition technology, according to a brief description of the business emailed by Sudow.

The Israeli incubator is also reviewing two more companies for investment, following their selection in its startup competition.

Pending a due diligence review, it is considering a company focused on food allergies and another with a connected cap for insulin pens.

AllerGuard is an early stage company that claims it is developing a matchbox-sized personal allergen hazard sensor to help people with strong food allergies. It can detect the chemical properties of the allergy-inducing compounds and alert users, according to a description of the company on the F6S website.

Insulog is developing a connected insulin pen cap for disposable insulin pens to support adherence. It is designed to detect and count the insulin units injected and enable that information to be tracked by users.

These tenders from the Office of the Chief Scientist, which last eight years, have sparked some other interesting collaborations in digital health.

In 2015, Medtronic and IBM won a grant to set up a digital medicine incubator in Haifa with Pitango Venture Capital and Rambam Hospital. Although it was initially called Health 02, it launched last year as MindUp. The digital health incubator has one portfolio company to date — Hemonitor Medical. The company develops an autonomous, continuous, non-invasive ultrasound device for patient monitoring, according to MindUp’s website.

Johnson & Johnson opened a biotech accelerator with OrbiMed Israel and Takeda Pharmaceuticals called FutuRx and has built a portfolio of nine companies spanning pre-clinical treatments for cancer to Orphan diseases such as Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome and X-linked thrombocytopenia.

Teva and Philips’ Sanara Ventures has six companies in its portfolio such as home monitoring business spirCare and telehealth business My HomeDoc.

With a goal of making Israeli companies competitive in the U.S. market, the incubators all follow the same structure dictated by the grant.

As part of the program, incubators are given budgets ranging from $500,000 to $800,000 and 85 percent of that comes from the government through a grant — the rest is financed by the incubators. Each early stage company in the program pays the government 3 percent to 5 percent of royalties from the revenue they generate until the full amount of the grant, including interest, is repaid, according to a website for the program.

NY’s Governor Cuomo Launches Country’s First Aging Services Mobile App

With the launch of the Aging Services mobile app, announced on May 9th, the Governor of New York has high hopes for his state as a role model in serving older adults.

[It] is part of the Governor’s overall goal to make New York State the healthiest and the first age-friendly state in the nation, in accordance with the eight Age Friendly/Livable Community Domains outlined by the World Health Organization and AARP. Communities that are designed and designated as age-friendly are communities that promote healthy aging for older adults and individuals of any age.

[The] app [will] connect older adults with valuable resources and services in their communities. The New York State Office for the Aging’s Aging Services app will provide New York's more than 3.7 million older adults with easily accessible material about benefits, programs, and services, including information regarding health and wellness, housing, and transportation options. The app is compatible with both iOS and Android platforms.

A primary aim of the app is to help older adults locate the services already available in their neighborhood.

Using the app’s “Near Me” feature, an older adult or caregiver anywhere in New York can immediately obtain address and contact information for local offices for the aging, senior centers, farmers’ markets, caregiver services, Alzheimer’s Association chapters, and more, within the closest proximity to their exact location. 

The Aging Services app also links users with live information and assistance through NY Connects, the state’s “no wrong door” system for community-based long-term services and supports, which is designed to help older adults and those with disabilities remain healthy and independent. Additionally, the app provides timely news and updates about state and federal programs that directly impact the lives of older New Yorkers and their families.

Governor Cuomo's initiative is timely, given the changing technology habits of older adults and their widespread desire to age-in-place.

Older adults are increasingly using technological tools to connect to news and information, health and wellness resources, and social supports. Almost 75 percent of people over age 50 and almost 45 percent of people over age 65 now own a smartphone, and those numbers continue to grow.

Beth Finkel, AARP NY State Director said, “AARP is proud to partner with Governor Cuomo to make New York the first age friendly state. The launching of this app, specifically designed for older New Yorkers and their families, supports many of the principles of age friendly/livable communities. Today’s older adults are becoming increasingly connected to mobile technology via smartphones and other mobile devices, and this new age-friendly mobile app allows people to more easily link to community resources that help them age independently.”

Tom Kamber, Founder and Executive Director of Older Adults Technology Services, said, “We are experiencing a longevity revolution in this country and the role of technology to assist and support our daily activities is paramount. There is an increasing awareness of healthy living and social engagement among today’s older adults, and technology plays a key role in healthy aging. New York State’s new mobile Aging Services app helps older adults remain healthy, active, and engaged in their communities, which in turn leads to a stronger and smarter New York.”

The Aging Services app was developed by the New York State Office for the Aging in collaboration with the New York State Office of Information Technology Services. To explore more of New York State’s official mobile apps, visit www.ny.gov/mobileapps.

Did the Fully Integrated Smart Home Just Get a Whole Lot Closer?

The truly integrated smart home is still primarily a project--and an investment--for gadget-loving early adopters. But this week, the prototype of a new kind of sensor was announced, promising to be that one simple device which could connect everything in the room.

That’s the idea behind Synthetic Sensors, a Carnegie Mellon University project that promises to make creating a smart, context-aware home a snap. The tiny device, unveiled this week at the big ACM CHI computer interaction conference, can capture all of the the environmental data needed to transform a wide variety of ordinary household objects into smart devices. It’s a prototype for now, but as a proof of concept it’s damn impressive.

Plug the module into an electrical outlet and it becomes the eyes and ears of the room, its 10 embedded sensors logging information like sound, humidity, electromagnetic noise, motion, and light (the researchers excluded a camera for privacy reasons). Machine learning algorithms translate that data into context-specific information about what’s happening in the room. Synthetic Sensors can tell you, for example, if you forgot to turn off the oven, how much water your leaky faucet is wasting...

Products like NestSen.se, and Notion have brought smart sensors into the home, but the ubiquitous sensor that could track and interpret data from multiple devices--both smart and dumb--has long been a tantalizing and seemingly remote possibilities for designers.

[S]ensors have gotten so small and sophisticated that gathering the data wasn’t hard. The challenge was doing something with it....

Using data captured by the sensor module, the researchers assign each object or action a unique signature. Opening the fridge, for example, produces a wealth of data: You hear the creak, see the light, and feel the movement. To a suite of sensors, it looks and sounds very different from a running faucet, which produces its own data. Laput and his team trained machine learning algorithms to recognize these signatures, building a vast library of senseable objects and actions. The variety of sensors is key. “These are all inferences from the data,” says Irfan Essa, director of Georgia Tech’s Interdisciplinary Research Center for Machine Learning. “If you had just one sensor, it would be much harder to distinguish.”

But while this type of machine learning is very promising and exciting, it must still catch up to the complexity of an ordinary human life.

A truly useful universal sensor must recognize and understand the nuances of constantly changing inputs. For example, it should be able to discern your coffeemaker from your blender, even if you move the appliance from one counter to another. Likewise, adding a new appliance to your kitchen can’t derail the whole system. Ensuring that level of robustness is a matter of improving the machine learning, which could fall to the system’s end user. “The easy solution in the short term is coming up with an interface that makes it easier for users to point out problems and retrain the system,” Rowe says.

For now, the Synthetic Sensors product is all data tracking and interpretation and no user interface.

Laput says he might eventually build an app to control the system, but the bigger idea is to incorporate Synthetic Sensor technology into smart home hubs as a way to capture more fine-grained data without the need for a camera (cough, Alexa). “If you embed more sensors into Alexa, you’ll potentially have a more knowledgable Alexa,” he says, referring to Amazon’s digital assistant. And that, Laput says, is the end goal of a smart home: building an environment that knows more about itself than you do.

Entrepreneurs for the 50+, take note: the possibilities for this kind of universal sensor in the home of those seeking to age-in-place are endless. We look forward to tracking the collaborations.

When Will Pharma Really Adopt Digital Health Tools and Not Simply Dabble?

Pharma's role in digital health innovation has been making news lately--from the number of deals and the sheer quantity of dollars flying around to fund startups, launch their pilot projects, and announce early partnerships. Pfizer recently announced its first digital health accelerator and Bayer has a full ground team in Silicon Valley to keep its finger on the pulse of what's new with digital health startups.

But at a recent media roundtable at Veeva System's Global Commercial and Medical Summit, says MedCity News' Stephanie Baum, experts discussed when pharma will move beyond these digital health "experiments" and really adopt its tools.

Digital health is at an interesting point in its evolution. Not only are some providers and payers connecting patients and members with apps and connected devices but also pharma companies are collaborating with startups and growth stage companies to develop applications to address challenges such as medication adherence. But which groups are further along in the adoption of these tools beyond the pilot phase? And how can the data these tools generate be harnessed for the greatest benefit?

Those were some of the questions addressed in a media roundtable at Veeva System’s Global Commerical and Medical Summit with Daniel Gandor, the head of Takeda Digital Accelerator U.S., and Stephen Davies, research director on Gartner’s healthcare team, spoke with Arno Sosa, Veeva vice president of product strategy.

Everyone agrees the potential for widespread change would skyrocket if pharma were to move beyond experimentation and truly adopt some of the these technologies. But what is required for that to happen?

Asked what it would take for digital health to stop being an experiment and get mainstream adoption from pharma companies like Takeda, Gandor responded in an email following the talk.

“For digital health tools to truly become mainstream they must be integrated within the overall patient experience, provide tangible value for customers, and have credible, scientific evidence proving that value,” Gandor said in email after the talk “When these tools are embedded earlier within the R&D process, it creates an opportunity to not only capture this evidence but potentially fundamentally change what the solution for patients might be.

“To see solutions that might result in completely new business models for our industry, I believe the approach has a higher likelihood of being disruptive when considered as early upstream as possible. Digital health tools can also certainly be added onto products on the market, and there are quite successful beyond the pill initiatives out there. Ultimately a balanced and simultaneous approach will help drive digital health tools to become more mainstream over time.”

Integration may sound like a straightforward goal, but the details of how health data is collected and managed in our current disjointed healthcare system mean that we are still a long way from achieving it.

The challenge of products generating lots of data to gain insight into the patient experience, such as measuring the effectiveness of certain drugs and treatment protocols over time, is that it’s tough to integrate and contextualize all that data in one place. Despite the likes of Validic and other companies creating tools to de-silo that data from apps and connected devices, and for all the talk of the benefits of interoperability, health systems, electronic health record vendors and yes, pharma companies, tend to fiercely guard their patient data — de-identified and otherwise.

Davies noted a couple of challenges with the push by pharma, medical device companies, payers and providers to satisfy their hunger for data to produce insights on the patient experience. There’s no one way patients can access this data. It can also be tough for healthcare organizations to take action from the insights they gain.

Might we Finally See a Digital Health Unicorn? Caremerge’s CTO Believes We Will

Co-Founder and CTO of Caremerge, Fahad Aziz, recently published a piece in Forbes on why he believes no digital health startup has yet achieved the "unicorn" status of a billion dollar valuation. Can it ever happen? Aziz believes it can, because some of the chronic limiting factors in the rapid adoption characteristic of unicorns is increasingly likely as the sector matures and offers ways to get around the limitations.

With Caremerge being one of the the fastest growing healthcare startups around, and one that has raised an impressive $20m in investment to date, his perspective is nuanced and insightful. (Please also check out The Longevity Network's own exclusive Entrepreneur of the Week interview with co-founder and CEO of Caremerge, Asif Khan).

Despite the fact that health is a basic need, not one digital health startup has attained unicorn status...There are several reasons as to why digital health startups have failed thus far to build multibillion-dollar businesses.

The First Difficulty: Securing Adequate Capital

No unicorn exists today that didn’t raise a crazy amount of cash in their first few years of growth. Digital health startups don’t have that luxury — which becomes a huge roadblock for them to grow exponentially.

Investors feel (and rightly so) that they don’t have enough leverage to assist a healthcare startup with growth. In addition to extensive government regulations, buyers (hospitals, physician offices, pharmacies or long-term care facilities) are often slow in buying technology. Investors are excited about the space because of the potential for demand but not enough to take on hundreds of millions of dollars of risk.

The bright spot: that investor confidence is growing.

In 2010, digital health companies received $1 billion in total investment, a drop in the bucket in comparison to others. Six years later, that number jumped 810% to $8.1 billion in 2016, as reported by Novahill Partners in their quarterly report (paywall). Part of this is due to entrepreneurs finding creative ways to generate revenue, lessening their dependence on providers.

The Second Difficulty: Costly Integration with Provider Systems

The fact that a digital health product cannot work in isolation and that it needs data from hospitals or physician offices adds complication and slows down innovation. By the time a startup creates those integrations, it has exhausted its funds and is likely dependent on this investment to work for them. And they usually don’t.

The bright spot: these integrations have become easier and less costly to perform

Major health systems offer out-of-the-box APIs and interfaces that make the integration process quick to build and test. There are also a number of third-party systems like Interfaceware and Mirth that provide built-in connectors to use and consultants who would do the integration for less, thus allowing startups to focus on their core business.

Third Difficulty: The Stakeholders Who Will Pay have Different Objectives Than the Ones Who Will Use

Healthcare regulations and large customers (like hospitals) often dictate the direction of a particular solution, and it becomes very difficult for a digital health startup to focus on optimizing its features to increase user tracking. New features take priority over A/B testing on existing features. Current unicorns in different markets have mastered the art of increasing traction by designing and redesigning the user experience, gamifying engagement, and sending smart notifications. This is only possible when you have one core offering.

The bright spot: many of the more successful startups are figuring out how to navigate this conflict.

More and more digital health startups are now trying to stay focused on their offerings. PatientPing, Amino, ZocDoc and Honor are several examples of digital health startups that have shown high growth while offering one core service.

The Fourth Difficulty: Many Digital Health Solutions Pull Provider Attention Away from Their Patients

Most healthcare technologies are used by care providers at hospitals, doctors’ offices, pharmacies and senior living communities. However, while technology has helped them become efficient, it takes their focus away from what they are trained to do. If you visit your primary doctor, you will notice that while they are talking to you, they are staring at a computer. It’s annoying, and they hate it too, but they have no choice.

This is the biggest challenge for digital health startups. They haven’t made applications that keep their users in mind.

The bright spot: there is a glimmer of hope in voice-activation, AI and other innovations.

Goodbye to clunky electronic medical records...Forward, a Silicon Valley startup, is determined to change that. By using voice recognition, artificial intelligence and connected EHR, they are letting physicians do what they do best: consult and let the technology assist them in a way that’s not a hindrance.

The Fifth Difficulty: B2B Does Not Utilize the Same Viral Consumer Adoption Model as Unicorns in Other Sectors

Most unicorns provide solutions to consumers. There are proven methodologies that allow to exponentially increase a consumer base via user engagement and virtuous loops (aka network effect). This is not as applicable in a B2B setting, but it’s not far-fetched either.

The bright spot: other sectors have demonstrated there is a version of rapid adoption that works in B2B growth

Palantir and Dropbox are two B2B companies that made it to unicorn status while providing solutions for other businesses. The business models were different, but they mastered the art of user engagement to retain and grow users in the system. Once users become the champions of their applications, it leaves decision makers and enterprises with no option to switch. Digital health startups now have these proven examples, and they need to employ them in their own businesses to generate the kind of growth that’s expected from a unicorn.

The Conclusion: any day now, the bright spots will win out over the entrenched difficulties in achieving the market scale of a unicorn in a digital health startup.

These are very exciting times for digital health startups. According to RockHealth, in the first quarter of 2017, there were 71 digital health deals totaling over $1 billion. Most of these investments were second and third rounds, which shows that startups have established traction and wowed their investors. Moreover, digital health startups are looking for creative ways to increase their revenue by signing up technology partners in addition to direct sales. And finally, more entrepreneurs from non-health startups are entering this space. For example, the founders of Vida, Honor, Forward and CloudMedx came from tech giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Based on all of this, there is reason to believe that very soon we will see not just one but several digital health startups transform into unicorns.

Cleveland Clinic’s Commercialization Arm Gets Restructured, Adds Execs

Among the successes over the past two decades at Cleveland Clinic--many of which are in the news this week as Dr. Toby Cosgrove recently announced he will step down from his role as longtime CEO--is the development of its commercialization arm, Cleveland Clinic Innovations (CCI).

Last month, CCI announced it was restructuring the division to further expand and refine its ability to commercialize medical innovations and also attract talent to Cleveland.

The restructuring elevates the role of Cleveland Clinic Ventures, with the goal of putting added focus on spinning off companies and raising funds to get those companies launched.

[It] will align the commercialization process under two Cleveland Clinic departments. Brian Donley, M.D., chief of staff at Cleveland Clinic, will oversee CCI and Steven Glass, chief financial officer for Cleveland Clinic, will oversee Cleveland Clinic Ventures.

“This new structure will maintain appropriate separation and eliminate any conflicts of interest in the commercialization process,” said Glass in a prepared statement. “It will also better position Cleveland Clinic to take to market the breakthrough inventions of our caregivers into new medical products and companies that benefit patients.”

CCI has become a success story of commercializing innovative ideas to improve patient experience and outcomes by tapping into its practicing caregivers for ideas.

Founded in 2000, CCI has issued over 850 patents and executed more than 500 licenses on medical devices and techniques. Additionally, CCI has helped launch 77 companies, which have created over 1,200 jobs and raised more than $1 billion in follow-on funding, according to Cleveland Clinic.

Successful...spinoffs include Explorys, a data firm purchased by IBM, and Intellect, a neuroscience device-maker acquired by Boston Scientific. In June 2016, CCI executed a license with a national patient experience services company to distribute and implement Cleveland Clinic’s Communicate with H.E.A.R.T. program to hospitals looking to improve their patient experience. NaviGate performed a first in human transcatheter mitral valve replacement in April 2015. Cleveland Heart Labs has grown to over 200 employees.

A new director has also been named for each of the two newly restructured departments.

Peter O’Neill will serve as executive director of CCI. He has more than 10 years of experience with CCI, including serving as director of commercialization and chief executive of one of its spinoff companies, Custom Orthopaedic Solutions.

Jack Miner, former director of the Venture Center at the University of Michigan, will be managing director of Cleveland Clinic Ventures. In his new role, Miner oversees a team that focuses on the 77 spin-off companies in its portfolio. He also plays a lead role in spinning off new companies and raising the funds needed to not only get off the ground, but to get all the way to market. These plans will include funding strategies, technology road maps and business model development.

Entrepreneur of the Week: Ran Ma, Siren Care

Last month, ten caregiving health tech finalists competed in AARP’s Innovation@50+ LivePitch event in Mountain View, CA. (See our wrap of the event). The Longevity Network is delighted to be featuring one of these finalists per week in our Entrepreneur of the Week segment.

This week we hear from the winner of this year's Audience Choice Award: Siren Care, a smart textile company whose first product is a smart sock for preventing diabetic foot ulcers.

We spoke with Ran Ma, founder and CEO, about the opportunities she sees in the 50+ market.

Longevity Network: What does Siren Care, the company, do?

Ran Ma: We have created the world’s first truly seamless smart textile technology by embedding electronics directly inside clothing; fast-forwarding society into a future where people do not have to wear additional wearables, just clothes - and our first product is a temperature sensing sock to help diabetics prevent foot ulcers.

LN: Can you tell us about your product and how it works?

RM: Diabetes currently affects 415m people (+50% by 2035). 40% are at risk of ulcers due to severe nerve damage. As they cannot feel pain, they don’t know when they injure themselves. Additionally, people with diabetes suffer from poor circulation so injuries don’t heal. A small injury can become an infection, ulcer, gangrene and an amputation. 12% of people with diabetes will lose a leg to foot ulcers in their life. After a lower leg amputation, 4 out of 5 diabetics will pass away within 5 years. Foot ulcers are the second leading cause of death (30%) for diabetics. In the US, the cost of diabetic foot ulcers and amputations is $17bn/year, more than the most expensive forms of cancer. Clinical studies show that temperature-measuring can reduce ulcers by up to 72%, but the current devices are difficult to use and have many false positives, because it’s manual monitoring without algorithms. Current wearables like Fitbit or Jawbone intrude on our lives. They are an extra “thing” we have to remember to wear. Our solution is to imbue the very clothes that we already wear with “smartness”. The main barrier that has prevented smart textiles from going mainstream is the imbalance between value-added and seamless design.

LN: What opportunity did you see that you wanted to address with the creation of your product?

RM: Diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs) are an invisible killer -- the people who are affected most by DFUs can’t feel them. Up to 70% of those with diabetes will develop peripheral neuropathy, or lose sensation in their feet due to nerve damage, and will not notice early signs of foot injury until it is too late.

Every year millions of people with diabetes will develop a DFU that escalates into amputations after nerve damage results in loss of pain sensation. After one amputation, there is a 50% chance that a diabetic will lose the second leg. Within 5 years, as many as 80% will die due to added complications.

Wearables will shape our future but have not been widely adopted. Currently wearable technologies have a 30% return rate and low retention after 6 months. We solve this problem with wearable technologies that are seamless and invisible. Smart fabrics have the potential to be worn comfortably 24/7 as computing components become smaller and more powerful. Siren makes smart clothes for the masses.

LN: Who are your primary users? How will your product benefit the 50+ population?

RM: Our socks are essential for people with diabetes to protect their feet. 1 in 4 people over the age of 65 have diabetes. About 70% of the almost 400 million people with diabetes worldwide have some form of neuropathy and cannot feel pain. So a small injury can go unnoticed and become an infection, gangrene, ulcer and amputation. We want to help them prevent injuries so that they can age with dignity.

With Siren Smart products consumers will finally have access to wearables that are completely invisible as computing components get cheaper, smaller, and more powerful.  Being the future of wearable technology, Siren Smart clothing are designed to offer consumers extremely powerful computing sensors that can be worn all day and all night.

LN: How did you assemble your team?

RM: Our team has a unique combination of skill sets, experiences and networks. I (CEO) have a B.Sc. Biomedical Engineering (Johns Hopkins University) and deferred my M.Sc. in Biotechnology (Northwestern University) and in Bioentrepreneurship (CBS) to work on Siren Care. I previously worked extensively in wound research to develop medical devices for the department of Plastic Surgery at Northwestern University – bio masks to regenerate the human face for war veterans and burn victims. Jie Fu (CTO) has 10+ years experience in hardware manufacturing (Cisco & Phillips). Through his own hardware design firm, he designed and mass produced 4 hardware products and has long-standing relationships with factories/CMs in China and understands the fine nuances of how to scale up production. Jie Fu went through the HAX program with Darma, a pressure sensing mat to monitor heart rate. Henk Jan Scholten (COO) is experienced in garment manufacturing and textile sourcing and has set up an international collaboration between multinational textile companies, trade unions, and suppliers. He has worked with clients, including the top 18 clothing brands in the world (Topshop, H&M, Zara, Primark, etc.), to optimize their supply chains.

LN: How has what happened with your company differed from what you envisioned would happen?

RM: When I started, I only had an idea, so I just started making the first prototypes in my room. I showed these at a medical conference, but they were still very early prototypes with wires hanging out everywhere. Last month I was a speaker at the same conference and we did a live demo on stage with a fully functional product! 

LN: What do you wish you had known before developing your product?

RM: When you develop a new product you’re constantly learning and a lot you just don’t know before you do it! We carefully selected our team so that we could find solutions for all the challenges that arise during product development. We especially did a lot of research on the healthcare market in the US.

LN: What most excites you about the aging/health technology market?

RM: Aging is inevitable. But we can do it with dignity and with less complications. And that starts with useful products and great tools, with friendly design, and the right data at the right time. That’s why we do what we do.

LN: What is your best piece of advice for startups who want to include or target the aging / tech market?

RM: Keep it simple, solve the key problem, don’t overload with features, and design something that is dignified.

LN: Where do you see your company five years from now?

RM: We would have made a difference in the lives of many people living with diabetes and we would have moved finding solutions for other aging-related problems as well, such as pressure ulcers and incontinence. Aging is a space that we are focused on and want to develop other great products for.

LN: What health or wellness technology do you hope exists by the time you retire?

RM: My list is expansive and unrealistic, but I would hope we could cure most chronic disease and cancer by then! And a super affordable full body diagnostic tool, like a handheld MRI, but even better.

 

About the Author

Ran Ma (CEO) has a B.Sc. Biomedical Engineering (Johns Hopkins University) and deferred her M.Sc. in Biotechnology (Northwestern University) and in Bioentrepreneurship (CBS) to work on Siren Care. She previously worked extensively in wound research to develop medical devices for the department of Plastic Surgery at Northwestern University – bio masks to regenerate the human face for war veterans and burn victims.

WellDoc Co-Founder Launches Latest Startup Aimed at Insulin Dosage

Competition has gotten fierce among mHealth solutions for diabetes management, and Amalgam Rx is the latest to tackle the insulin dosage piece.

Initiating and increasing insulin dosages represent some of the greatest challenges to help Type 2 diabetes patients manage their chronic condition.

Founded by WellDoc co-founder and former chief medical officer Dr. Suzanne Clough and Ryan Sysko, who served as CEO at the diabetes management business, Amalgam Rx secured FDA clearance for its iSage app to automate titration across five types of Basal insulin,  — Lantus, Levemir, Toujeo, Tresiba and Basaglar. The idea is to provide a way to support a more timely way to tweak insulin dosage levels.

The iSage app is intended to complement what other diabetes management companies such as mySugr and WellDoc have done, by digitizing a physician's care plan.

Users enter their fasting blood glucose value each day and the app will display their insulin dose according to their doctor’s plan. If users take their insulin in the evening, the app displays the dose at that time. It also allows users to set up reminders to test their blood sugar and to take their basal insulin.

The product will initially be offered for free to health systems, health plans and pharmacy benefit managers, but the company hopes to eventually bill based on patient results.

Sysko said that only half of the diabetes patient population reach their target levels for blood sugars.  

“We have created APIs and [software development kits] to integrate our platform with [others],” he added. Although physicians prescribe the app it can be downloaded in iTunes and Google Play’s app store. Physicians can also reach out to the company to get training on using the app.

If Amalgam Rx can achieve the market penetration and results it hopes to achieve, Sysko told MedCity New they will expand their dosage calendar functionality beyond insulin to support other conditions as well. But for now, they also have competition in insulin dosing.

Voluntis secured FDA clearance for its Insulia app, for Basal insulin dosages last year. It provides automated insulin dose recommendations based on the patient’s treatment plan, insulin prescription, and blood glucose goals. Patients receive coaching messages in response to blood glucose values and other diabetes-related data, the statement said. The dose adjustment algorithm is embedded in the application.

Common Sensing developed a sensor for insulin pen caps to help physicians track dosages through a clinical decision support tool.

Q&A: Samsung Electronic America’s Chief Medical Officer Shares Priorities, Vision

Chief Medical Officer for Samsung Electronics America, Dr. David Rhew, will be a keynote speaker at the MedCity INVEST conference this month in Chicago, and this week he provided MedCity News with a written Q&A on Samsung's digital health priorities and on the many partnerships it is developing with providers and startups in the space.

This is a somewhat abridged version which aims to highlight topics relevant the the 50+ market of healthy living as well as caregiving tech.

What prompted you to move from working as a practicing physician to technology?

In addition to my work as a physician, I have a background in computer science and artificial intelligence so I have always been passionate about technology. As result, I spend a lot of time exploring how technology can improve health outcomes and reduce costs. I joined Samsung because there was strong alignment in tackling this industry challenge.

What are some examples of the digital health technologies Samsung is producing?

We apply technology to improve health outcomes, specifically access to care, quality of care, cost and efficiency, and the patient experience.  We focus on three areas: 

In-hospital, with a particular emphasis on improving efficiency of care and improving the patient and family in-facility experience;

In-health covers connected health and mHealth technologies such as remote patient monitoring, wearables, and telehealth; and

In-home This includes  Internet of Things technologies in the home or apartment are designed to meet the needs of seniors and those with disabilities.

What are some of the digital health technologies that excite you and why?

[I]magine a world where all types of healthcare, fitness, and wellness services were readily available on [a] digital health market place. This is precisely the vision for Samsung Health (formerly S Health).

Through a strategic partnership with American Well and leading healthcare organizations, Samsung has launched a direct-to-consumer telemedicine platform called Samsung Health. Samsung Health is currently available on all Samsung and Android mobile devices with the goal of expanding to other operating systems.

...Clinical research now demonstrates that virtual reality (VR) can reduce pain and potentially decrease narcotic usage for those with both acute and chronic pain.  Samsung is participating in a randomized controlled trial with Cedars-Sinai and Applied VR to evaluate the impact of VR in hospitalized patients with pain. We are also seeing very promising results with VR as a therapeutic tool for individuals with a variety of conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder, stroke, spinal cord injury, macular degeneration, and dementia to name a few.

Finally, digital health can help seniors, as well individuals with disabilities due to disease and/or accident, live longer, happier, and healthier lives. At the same time, it can improve the quality of life for the caregiver. One of the most common fears for seniors is being sent to a nursing home. The inability to care for oneself could potentially be addressed if the home and/or apartment were made safer and smarter. Imagine a home where the appliances were digitally connected to make everyday activities seamless; where sensors in the kitchen, bedroom, and bathrooms could enable early detection of falls; where wearables could help identify and proactively alert when an individual’s condition is worsening.

What have you learned from working with hospitals and care teams to implement digital health tools?

Increasing patient/consumer engagement in their health is one of the most important factors in improving outcomes. Digital technologies need to be seamless, easy, and secure. This means we need to think about the consumer “workflow”, motivation, and the internal needs that we are addressing with the solution. Data is only useful when it has been properly filtered, analyzed, and pushed out as actionable insights. Clinician involvement and when, how, and to whom the data are presented is a vital part of a successful digital health program.

How many startups are you collaborating with?

We work with a wide range of “startups”, from the very new to the more established. What unites them all is a commitment to innovation and using technology to solve specific healthcare problems – whether that’s senior isolation, medical treatment adherence or pain management.

What are some of the biggest challenges when collaborating with startups?

I would say the main challenge —no matter the size of the company – is that digital healthcare innovation is a relatively young sector. While we’ve come a long way in a short period of time, there are still many regulatory and structural considerations that need to be addressed.

What advice would you give to startups that want to collaborate with Samsung?

We want to hear from any organization that delivers technology solutions to improve the healthcare delivery process and patient outcomes. We are interested in startups that can provide a clear solution to a problem—or can show a specific barrier that they help patients or providers overcome.