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Cue Health faces layoffs after pandemic whirlwind
Covid-19 has catapulted dozens of health tech companies back in time – and just over Benchmark Healtha 12-year-old testing company that was mostly stuck in R&D mode until January 2020. In two short years, Cue landed a half-billion-dollar deal with the defense departmentone of the biggest single federal test payouts of the pandemic, and took that revenue to a valuation of $2.9 billion after its IPO last September.
Like many companies that have seen the pandemic give way to massive revenues and public debuts, Cue must now grapple with its post-Covid future – and the transition won’t be easy. Last week, in the face of falling demand for testing and a soaring stock market, Cue laid off 170 of its manufacturing workers, about 10% of its workforce. And earlier this month he took legal action against his biggest benefactor, the United States of America, challenging his exclusion from another lucrative testing contract. Read Katie’s full investigation into Cue’s trajectory and future.
HIPAA won’t protect key data after Roe ruling
The quashing of Roe v. Wade highlights a harsh reality in the world of health data: HIPAA will not protect the privacy of reproductive health information in the face of aggressive lawsuits. That was the consensus of several legal experts we spoke with in the hours following the decision. HIPAA contains exceptions when a person’s health data becomes evidence in a criminal case or other legal proceeding. It also fails to protect vast amounts of data stored on cellphones, shoppers’ loyalty cards, reproductive health apps, and social media sites. It remains to be seen how state legislatures and local prosecutors will react to the decision. But the takeaway at this precarious time is clear: Be careful what you share. Read more.
Alzheimer’s technology gets a boost
Therapeutic Cognitowhich is developing technology to treat Alzheimer’s disease, raised $50 million from the Silicon Valley-based company Founders X, reports Mario in this exclusive. Unlike many digital therapy companies, Cognito is not developing an app version of cognitive-behavioral therapy: instead, it combines light pulses with sound to activate brain changes that it is hypothesized can treat and even reverse cognitive decline – a goal that has long eluded pharmaceutical interventions. With the new funds, the company will continue to push its clinical trials for possible FDA submission; it plans to launch its phase 3 trial this year for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment.
How race creeps into machine learning models
Clinical AI developers are increasingly aware of the possibility of bias creeping into their algorithms. But new research shows that even when computer scientists try to remove race from the equation, machine learning models can still figure it out. “There’s no way to erase race,” said Leo Anthony Celi, co-author of a preprint that showed models trained on clinical notes can predict self-reported race, even when the text is devoid of racial identifiers. A model learning breed isn’t necessarily bad – but when you don’t know how they learn, it becomes much harder for humans to supervise and correct. Read more in Katie’s story.
A low bar for digital health evidence
While digital health companies have attracted billions in investment, the evidence for their claims has not kept pace with funding, a new study finds in the Journal of Internet Medical Research. Use of a funding database of Rock Health, the researchers identified 224 digital health companies that had raised more than $2 million and measured their “clinical robustness” – the sum of FDA filings and registered clinical trials. No surprise: Scores were low across all domains, especially in clinical areas like oncology and primary care.
More so, there was no correlation between a company’s score and the number of complaints it made. “The lack of meaningful clinical validation for nearly half of digital health companies has highlighted a major gap in healthcare technology today,” the authors write.
$7 billion valuation results in big layoff
- The Virtual Care Company Ro said it would lay off 18% of its workforce just months after hitting a $7 billion valuation, TechCrunch reported. The company said the cuts will “increase the efficiency of our organization and better align our resources with our current strategy.”
- Meta released an ad highlighting the potential of its virtual alternate world as a training ground for the next generation of surgeons. “The Metaverse may be virtual, but the impact will be real,” the ad states, hinting at a future where virtual reality augments traditional workout regimens.
- Nomadic Healtha technology-based healthcare staffing company, raised $105 million in a funding round led by Adams Street Partners and Icon companies. The company is looking to expand beyond nurses to serve a broader group of workers, including lab technicians and physical therapists.
- A myriad of genetics signed an agreement with Epic to allow doctors to order its genetic tests from their EHR screens. The companies said the agreement will create a “seamless” workflow where doctors can access tests and review results without clicking away from the screen.
Step up and step back
- Cori Bargman announced that she would be stepping down as Chief Scientific Officer for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiativewhere she managed billions of research grants, to return to her Rockefeller neuroscience laboratory. She will remain a member of its scientific advisory board, while CZI Biohub chief Steve Quake steps into her role.
- As it expands its footprint in remote patient monitoring, Withing has appointed a new marketing director: Elizabeth Coleonwho recently held the position with the French company Qontoarrived in May.
What we read
- Digital backdoors can lead to health inequality, STAT First Opinion
- Talk therapy apps face new questions about collecting data from senators, The Verge
- Congress is closer than ever to officially authorizing ARPA-H. But the details aren’t as definitive as they seem, STAT
- How Covid tracking apps are pivoting for business profit, Wired