Health Tech News This Week – September 18, 2021

What happened in health care technology this week and why it’s important.

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NHS launches world first trial for blood test that detects cancer

Tammy Lovell posted an article on MobiHealthNews EMEA edition this week reporting on research being done by the NHS in partnership with GRAIL.

The NHS is launching the world’s largest trial of a blood test which can detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear. Research has shown the Galleri test is effective at finding cancers that are typically difficult to identify early, including head and neck, bowel, lung, pancreatic, and throat cancers. They aim to recruit 140,000 volunteers in eight areas of England to see how well the test works in the NHS.

Why it’s important – Patients whose cancer is found early, at stage one or two, typically have a broader range of treatment options available to them, which can be curative and are often less aggressive. Tens of thousands are living with undiagnosed cancer due to the impact of COVID-19, according to cancer campaigners. They aim to recruit 140,000 volunteers in eight areas of England to see how well the test works in the NHS. Initial results of the study are expected by 2023 and, if successful, the NHS in England plans to extend the rollout to a further one million people in 2024 and 2025.


Walmart’s healthcare team is shaking up its leadership amid a slow rollout of health clinics

Business Insider’s Shelby Livingston reported on more management changes in the leadership team at Walmart this week. Lori Flees, who has been the chief operating officer of Walmart’s health and wellness division since August 2020, is no longer in her role and moving outside the company’s healthcare operations. And Marcus Osborne, who previously headed up Walmart’s medical clinics, known as Walmart Health, has moved into a role involving health and wellness strategy and innovation and is no longer directly overseeing the clinics.

Why it’s important – Ongoing changes in management since last year have dramatically slowed the rollout of their Walmart Health Clinics. But, it’s a mistake to view these changes in direction and timing as a signal that Walmart isn’t serious about continuing its move into health care. Walmart is also focusing on offering healthcare online. The retailer announced plans in May to buy the telehealth company MeMD, and it’s been filing to do business in dozens of states across the country.


CVS Health Paves Path to Better Care With Data, AI

In an interview with Beena Ammanath, executive director of the Deloitte AI Institute, and reported in The Wall Street Journal, Bob Darin, who leads the company’s enterprise data strategy, discusses how to take consumer-centric health care services to the next level using AI and other data-driven technologies.

Why it’s important – CVS, along with other service providers, are looking to leverage the vast data resources they have at their disposal to improve and personalize the consumer experience. As he states in the interview:

“The only goal of AI is to reduce costs. The nature of business is that we have to use technology to boost efficiency, and like any other technology, AI is a tool to do that. But we’re not trying to replace the pharmacist or people dealing with patients. AI won’t supplant the decision-making and thinking and creativity of people—in fact, it will complement those skills and make our customer experience more frictionless.”

Bob Darin, CVS

Google, ProMedica team up with IncludeHealth to tap into growing virtual MSK market

Heather Landi reports in Fierce Healthcare on a new partnership between Google, ProMedica, and IncludeHealth to serve the rapidly growing virtual care market to get a piece of the $213 billion that’s spent annually on musculoskeletal care.

IncludeHealth digitizes physical medicine, rehabilitation, and wellness, and its technology is used for orthopedics, neuroscience, pediatric care, senior care, government, and general wellness. IncludeHealth’s MSK platform utilizes this technology to deliver prescriptive care with precise tracking of patient progress and outcomes for physical and occupational therapy across MSK treatment pathways.

Why it’s important – MSK care impacts an estimated 126.6 million Americans and costs about $213 billion in annual treatment, care, and lost wages, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Musculoskeletal conditions are often the most significant cost driver for employers, surpassing even cancer and heart disease. Patient demand for virtual MSK care and physical therapy is rising: Only 2% of PT appointments were done virtually before the pandemic, compared to 50% now, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. At the same time, 21% of physical therapists rank limited technology as their most significant hurdle to delivering personalized, quantifiable patient care, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports. The difference in this approach is that the platform being developed does not circumvent traditional providers, thereby helping to ensure a continuum of care for patients and employers using the platform.


Bioartificial kidney prototype aces lab tests, could replace dialysis

New Atlas posted an article by Michael Irving reporting on a research project intended to develop a bioartificial kidney that can be implanted and works without the need for drugs.

The device is made up of two main parts. The hemofilter is made up of silicon semiconductor membranes that remove waste products from the blood. The bioreactor, meanwhile, contains engineered renal tubule cells, which regulate water volume, electrolyte balance, and other metabolic functions. The membranes also protect these cells from being attacked by the patient’s immune system.

Why it’s important – Eliminating the need for immune-suppressing and blood thinner drugs would be a significant development in making this type of technology a viable alternative to conventional kidney dialysis. Here’s a video of the development team describing their research:


This FDA-approved necklace is designed to prevent brain injuries in athletes

Mark Wilson posted an article in Fast Company online about research being conducted at Northshore Medical Group, Harvard University, and the Mayo Clinic in developing a wearable device to help reduce brain injuries in athletes.

Called the Q-Collar, it’s a $200 band that slips around the neck much like a necktie. Made in Wisconsin with a spring-loaded steel core, the plastic band places about 1.2 pounds of pressure onto the wearer’s internal jugular vein (IJV). This is a vein that carries oxygen-free blood from the brain back to the heart. With a simple, slip-on design created by Priority Designs, the Q-Collar could be used by anyone who plays football, lacrosse, soccer, hockey, or rugby—a market in the hundreds of millions of dollars within the first five years, according to Q30. It’s also being investigated by the U.S. armed forces as a way to prevent brain trauma from IED explosions, according to Q30. Here’s a video with Dr. Julian Bailes, Chairman of Neurosurgery at Northshore University Hospital, discussing the Q-Collar’s intended ability to reduce the brain’s movement inside the skull.

Why it’s important – By the end of a single season, more than 50% of high school soccer players can be suffering from structural changes to the brain associated with trauma. Coupled with training, the Q-Collar is a tool that can measurably drive the safety of some higher-impact sports to the less-risky levels of baseball or basketball. For all the young athletes in high school, the Q-Collar offers some clinically backed protection to their brains during their earliest days of playing a sport. So hopefully, a few mistakes on the field don’t need to follow them through life.


FDA Approves First Human Trial for Potential CRISPR-Led HIV Cure

The first-in-human clinical trial for a candidate treatment for individuals living with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 is starting soon after its maker, Excision BioTherapeutics, received an Investigational New Drug clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as reported in BioSpace by Vanessa Doctor, RN.

The FDA’s IND approval sets the stage for the very first Phase I/II trial to evaluate EBT-101 as a functional cure for chronic HIV based on the endpoints of safety, tolerability, and efficacy. EBT-101, an in vivo, CRISPR-based drug that targets HIV proviral DNA, is a unique gene therapy that leverages CRISPR’s viral defense capability against bacteria. It uses an adeno-associated virus (AAV) to deliver a one-time treatment to cure HIV infections functionally.

Why it’s important – Preclinical studies show that it can excise HIV proviral DNA in multiple cell lines, including both human primary cells and numerous animal models and non-human primates. The Phase I/II trial is expected to begin in early 2022, pending final details. It will involve three groups of healthy HIV patients, each given a higher dose of EBT-101. If successful, the technique can potentially eliminate the requirement for life-long treatment, decrease side effects, provide the possibility of a functional cure.

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