You’re reading the web edition of STAT Health Tech, our guide to how technology is transforming the life sciences. Sign up to receive this newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday.
Cue Health faces layoffs after pandemic whirlwind
Covid-19 has catapulted dozens of health tech companies forward in time — and little more than Cue Healtha 12-year-old test company that was largely stuck in R&D mode until January 2020. In two short years, Cue struck a half-billion dollar deal with the… Department of Defenseone of the largest single federal test payouts of the pandemic, taking that revenue to a valuation of $2.9 billion after last September’s IPO.
Like many companies that saw the pandemic give way to huge revenues and public debuts, Cue is now dealing with its post-Covid future — and the transition won’t be easy. Last week, faced with dwindling 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, it filed a lawsuit against its biggest benefactor, the United States of America, challenging its exclusion from another lucrative test contract. Read Katie’s full investigation into the trajectory and future of Cue†
HIPAA Doesn’t Protect Key Data After Roe .’s Decision
The destruction of Roe v. Wade highlights a stark reality in the health data world: HIPAA will not protect the privacy of reproductive health information from aggressive prosecution. That was the consensus of several legal experts we spoke to in the hours following the decision. HIPAA includes exceptions when an individual’s health information becomes evidence in a criminal case or other legal proceeding. It also doesn’t protect a huge amount of data captured on cell phones, customer loyalty cards, reproductive health apps, and social media sites. It remains to be seen how state lawmakers and local prosecutors will react to the ruling. But the takeaway at this precarious moment is clear: be careful what you share. read more†
Alzheimer’s technology gets a boost
Cognito TherapeuticsDeveloping technology to treat Alzheimer’s has raised another $50 million from Silicon Valley-based Founders X† Mario reports in this exclusive† Unlike many other digital therapy companies, Cognito isn’t developing a modified version of cognitive behavioral therapy: instead, it combines pulses of light with sound to trigger brain changes that it believes can treat and even reverse cognitive decline — a goal that has long eluded pharmaceutical interventions. With the new funds, the company will continue its clinical trials for an eventual FDA filing; it plans to launch its phase 3 trial this year for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment.
How racing sneaks into machine learning models
Clinical AI Developers become more and more aligned to the potential for bias to seep 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 you can erase race,” said Leo Anthony Celi, co-author of a preprint that showed that models trained on clinical notes can predict self-reported race, even if the text has been stripped of racial identifiers. A modeling race isn’t necessarily a bad thing — but if it’s unclear how it learns, it makes it much harder for people to supervise and correct. Read more in Katie’s story.
A low bar for evidence in digital health
While digital health companies have brought in billions in investment, evidence for their claims has fallen short of funding, a new one illustrates. study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research† Using a funding database from Rock Health, 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: the scores were low across the board, especially in clinical areas such as oncology and primary care.
In fact, there was no correlation between a company’s score and the number of claims it made. “The lack of meaningful clinical validation for nearly half of digital health companies highlighted a major gap in today’s healthcare technology,” the authors write.
A $7 Billion Valuation Brings a Major Layoff
- The virtual care company Ro said it will lay off 18% of its workforce just months after it rose to a valuation of $7 billion, 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 one advertisement emphasizes the potential of its virtual otherworld to be a training ground for the next generation of surgeons. “The Metaverse may be virtual, but the impact will be real,” says the ad, which paints a future where virtual reality magnifies traditional training regimens.
- Nomad healtha technology-enabled health personnel company, raised $105 million in a financing round led by Adams Street Partners and Icon Ventures† The company is looking to move beyond nurses to serve a broader group of employees, including lab technicians and physical therapists.
- Countless genetics signed a deal of Epic to allow doctors to order the genetic testing of their EHR screens. The companies said the deal will create a “seamless” workflow in which doctors can access the tests and view the results without clicking off the screen.
Step up and step back
- Cori Bargmann announced that she would be stepping down from her position as head of science for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiativewhere she succeeded billions in research grantsto return to her Rockefeller neuroscience laboratory. She will remain on the scientific advisory board, while CZI Biohub leader Steve Quake steps into her role.
- As it expands its footprint in remote patient monitoring, withings has appointed a new chief marketing officer: Elizabeth Coleonwho most recently held the position at a French company Qontocame up in May.
What we are reading
- Digital loopholes can lead to health inequalities, STAT First opinion
- Talk therapy apps face new data collection questions from senators, The edge
- Congress is closer than ever to formally authorizing ARPA-H. But the details aren’t as final as they seem, STAT
- How Covid Tracking Apps Run For Commercial Profits, wired