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Medical Knowledge A.I. Company Raises Early $4.8M

Synthetic biology

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

20 Nov. 2019. A company developing a system with artificial intelligence to analyze medical literature for treatment insights is raising nearly $5 million in its first venture round. Funding for the company Causaly, based in London, is led by PenTech Ventures in Edinburgh, Scotland that supports early stage technology enterprises.

Causaly analyzes published medical research, conducting a full-text search of nearly 25 million published articles and abstracts with, as the company notes, some 100,000 new articles added each month. The company’s technology searches databases including PubMed Central and Medline, as well as third-party databases, with analysis for revealing causal relationships in the literature. The technology then combines natural language processing with machine learning algorithms to learn the context of the documents and linguistic expressions, for constructing chains of causality. Results are displayed as lists and visual flow charts.

Causaly says the searched literature includes both basic and applied research covering subjects such as living organisms, chemicals and drugs, physiology, disorders, and genes and molecular sequences. The company says its services are used for faster and more transparent decision making on drug discovery, drug safety, clinical trials, epidemiology, health economics, market access, and intellectual property questions. Causaly partners with a number of drug makers and biotechnology companies, as well as hospitals, academic institutions, and scientific publishers.

“At Causaly,” says co-founder and CEO Yiannis Kiachopoulos in a company blog post, “our aim is to help researchers, doctors and decision-makers from industry and academia find the pivotal insights that are currently hidden in millions of biomedical documents. We believe that Causaly can transform how people find, visualize and interpret knowledge, and contribute to solving the most difficult and systemic problems in biomedicine and human health.”

The two year-old company’s first venture funding round is raising $4.8 million led by PenTech Ventures. Other new and current investors include EBRD Venture Capital, Marathon Venture Capital, and other undisclosed angel investors. PenTech Ventures invests in early-stage software companies in the U.K.

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Guidelines for Training New Employees

– Contributed content –

Taking notes

(Startup Stock Photos, Pexels)

20 Nov. 2019. Managing new team members will require a high amount of patience, communication and time. You have to make sure that you train them on the specific procedures that you have at your company and you also need to let them know what is expected of them as well. As if that wasn’t enough, you also need to remember that individuals learn at different rates, so you need to give everyone the support that they need, every step of the way.

Listen to their ideas

Sure, you may be the one training your team on how things need to be done but communication is a two-way street. Listen to their ideas and encourage them to be creative and innovative. You never know, they may have ideas that will help to improve your department and if this is the case then you should really take them on board.  This can put your business in a very strong position and you may even find that it helps you to focus on what the future holds.

Don’t neglect your senior employees

Employees that have been in business for quite some time can be a valuable resource. You need to be sensitive to their needs while you train up your new employees. A new team member may take up quite a lot of your time and resources, but that being said, you need to make sure that you don’t neglect the rest of your team because if you do then this could lead to problems later down the line.

Enlist mentors

Another way for you to make sure that your other team members still feel valued would be for you to nominate them as mentors. When you do, you can easily broaden their skill set while also giving them more responsibility. This frees up your own time and it may even instill a sense of camaraderie as well. Things like this can work wonders for your team spirit and you may even find that you are able to be more productive as a result.

Set realistic goals

You have to make sure that you set specific goals for any new employees you hire. It’s also important that you list the goals clearly as well. If you are too aggressive with the targets that you set then you may find that your employees spend most of their time recapping what they learnt in their training, rather than pursuing the goals that have been set. This can hinder their learning experience and it may even make it harder for them to catch up as well. If you want to help yourself then you need to take a detailed assessment of their skill level and experience. After all, a new hire who has never worked in the industry before may not be able to pick things up as quickly as someone who has been working in the sector for quite some time.

Provide feedback

This really is key.  New employees need to have a lot of feedback because it shows them not only what they are doing wrong, but also what they are doing right. If employees are constantly making mistakes, then this will make it even harder for them to learn new things.

Don’t play favorites

If you are hiring a new group of employees for your team then don’t show any favoritism. Managers have to be fair and they also need to treat all employees the same. If you show favoritism because someone has more experience or because they pick up things faster, then this will breed competitiveness and it will also leave other team members feeling unappreciated. Remember that just because one team member is picking things up faster, doesn’t mean that you should give them all responsibility. In fact, it really means that the other team members need more support so make sure that you keep this in mind.

Team building

As you train your new team member, you need to make sure that they feel part of the team. Make sure that their schedule has some spare time so that they can interact with other people as well. It also helps to have some team events too. Explain the parameters beforehand and also help them to know how they could participate. When you do, you may find that you are able to give everyone more support and that you are also able to bring everyone together.

Offer Additional Training

You really do want your team to feel as though they are being given the chance to progress in their field. Instead of hiring new team members to fill a role, consider seeing if the team members you have now want to train and fill it themselves. If this involves them undergoing hazardous materials training then make sure that you give them the option, or even ask them if they would like to pay to enroll if you can’t afford it.

Celebrate success

As your team members become better at their job and as they become much more productive, they will then start to meet the goals that you have set much more efficiently. If you want to help your team then you need to track their success and you also need to monitor each member’s contribution overall. When you do, you will then be given the chance to really support them while also helping those who might be falling behind.

Of course, if you hire new team members then you need to make sure that you are giving them the best and most nurturing working environment. If you aren’t then they might never achieve their full potential, or they may grow unhappy with your work culture. Another way for you to include new team members would be for you to have an open working environment. Break down barriers by investing in an open plan layout or even try and help them to understand how their contribution makes a difference to your results overall. Giving your team a bonus at the end of the year will also help them out by a huge amount.

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Institute Invests in Elderly Care Start-Up

Kathleen Unroe

Kathleen Unroe (Regenstrief Institute)

20 Nov. 2019. Regenstrief Institute, affiliated with Indiana University, is investing in a new company aiming to improve long-term care for older individuals. The institute, based in Indianapolis and conducting research on the role of information in medical care, is taking an undisclosed investment stake in Care Revolution, a start-up enterprise in Zionsville, Indiana.

Care Revolution is developing a new model of health care for older people living in long-term care facilities. Many of these nursing homes, says the company, are tasked with caring for the sickest individuals, while often facing staff shortages and reimbursement limits from Medicare and other payers. Care Revolution believes a new model is needed for serving this population that enhances the quality of care to residents, improves systems in the facilities, and reduces the need for hospitalizations, which sharply drive up costs.

That model is based on results of a five-year demonstration project at 19 long-term care facilities by researchers at Indiana University. That project, called Optimistic — short for Optimizing Patient Transfers, Impacting Medical Quality, and Improving Symptoms: Transforming Institutional Care — embeds nurses trained in specialized care at long-term care facilities. These highly trained nurses provide specialized and personalized care to residents, but also train other staff in evidence-based techniques to cement these practices into the work of the facilities.

An evaluation shows the Optimistic model can make sizeable reductions in spending on Medicare-supported hospitalizations, estimated at $14.3 billion in 2011, before the demonstration project. These hospitalizations are for diseases such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, congestive heart failure, dehydration, skin ulcers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma. The assessment shows the model can reduce the risk of potentially avoidable hospitalizations by one-third (33%), resulting in a 25 percent reduction in avoidable hospitalizations, a savings of $1,589 per nursing home resident, and a net savings of $3.4 billion in Medicare expenditures.

The Optimistic demonstration was led by Indiana University medical school professors Kathleen Unroe and Greg Sachs. Unroe is also Regenstrief research scientist. In 2018, Unroe founded Care Revolution to package and commercialize the project’s findings, forming the company with help from the university’s entrepreneurial support organization and a $150,000 seed investment from the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund in August 2018.

“Care Revolution will bring a player-coach to the arena of skilled nursing, someone who’s directing activity and getting directly involved in delivering care,” says Todd Saxton, vice-president of Regenstrief in an institute statement. “This investment will facilitate innovation in health care, an area that is at the heart of Regenstrief’s mission.” Unroe adds, “Regenstrief’s investment in Care Revolution will empower our company to expand our reach and improve the care provided to older adults in areas far beyond central Indiana.”

Regenstrief is also collaborating with Care Revolution on a companion app for nurses at long-term care facilities. The iOS app for Apple iPads is expected to help improve the workflow of these key staff and improve decision making.

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Retail Clinics Offer A.I.-Enabled Eye Diagnostics

Fundus photograph

Fundus photograph of a healthy right eye (OptometrusPrime, Wikimedia Commons)

19 Nov. 2019. A chain of primary care clinics in grocery stores is adding diagnostics using artificial intelligence to detect an eye disorder resulting from type 2 diabetes. The CarePortMD chain of retail health clinics is adding IDx-DR tests developed by the company IDx in Coralville, Iowa, a spin-off enterprise from University of Iowa.

CarePortMD operates primary care clinics in supermarkets, providing walk-in services inside the stores, and telemedicine kiosks. A specialty of CarePortMD clinics is diabetes, with special programs for prevention and management. The company says five CarePortMD clinics located at Albertson’s supermarkets in Delaware and Pennsylvania added IDx-DR systems so far this year.

High levels of blood sugar can cause serious complications in people with type 2 diabetes, including vision problems. Among these issues is damage to the fine blood vessels in the retina, located in the back of the eye that detects and converts light to signals sent through the optic nerve to the brain. Diabetic retinopathy is the name given to this condition that can range from mild leakage in the eye to swelling and distortion of the blood vessels, and proliferation of new blood vessels to compensate for the damage.

One consequence of this damage is swelling in the macula, the part of the retina that provides the sharpest vision, a disorder known as diabetic macular edema. Other outcomes include cataracts, glaucoma, or permanent vision loss if the retina detaches from the eye. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness among adults in the U.S. age 20 to 74. CDC estimates 4.1 million people have diabetic retinopathy, including nearly 900,000 individuals with advanced stages of the condition threatening their vision.

The IDx-DR system analyzes images of patients’ retinas taken by a specialized fundus camera that provides high-resolution color medical images of the eyes. The images are stored on a local system and uploaded to a cloud-based server where IDx-DR software analyzes the images, and according to the company returns results in one minute or less. The analysis is based on algorithms the company says combine image analysis and deep learning that first assess image quality, then inspect for lesions and location of irregularities in the retina, resulting in an assessment of diabetic retinopathy.

Assuming images of sufficient quality, IDx-DR either returns a positive result for moderate or more severe diabetic retinopathy, or a mild case of the condition, calling for a retest in one year. As reported by Science & Enterprise, the Food and Drug Administration cleared the IDx-DR system for marketing in the U.S. in April 2018.

In an IDx statement, Ashok Subramanian, CEO of CarePortMD says, “the retinal exam provides a rich source of information, helping to identify patients who are at highest risk for complications of diabetes. If we catch these high-risk patients earlier, it can result in significant savings for the health care system and better patient outcomes.”

IDx licenses its technology based on research by company founder Michael Abramoff, Professor of Ophthalmology at University of Iowa’s medical school in Iowa City. Abramoff started IDx in 2010 and continues as the company’s CEO.

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First Blood Disorder Crispr Treatments Reported

Sickle cell illustration

Sickle cell illustration (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

19 Nov. 2019. Early results from a clinical trial testing gene editing treatments for inherited blood disorders show the treatments helped patients improve their conditions. Findings from the first two patients in the clinical trial, including serious adverse effects, are reported today by developers of the therapies, Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Boston and CRISPR Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The experimental therapy code-named CTX001 is designed to treat patients with genetic defects causing sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia. Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder affecting hemoglobin, a protein in blood that delivers oxygen to cells in the body. People with sickle cell disease have hemoglobin molecules that cause blood cells to form into an atypical crescent or sickle shape. That abnormal shape causes the blood cells to break down, lose flexibility, and accumulate in tiny capillaries, leading to anemia and periodic painful episodes. People with beta thalassemia have lower production of hemoglobin in their blood.

Crispr — short for clustered, regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats — makes it possible to edit genomes of organisms harnessing bacterial defense mechanisms that use RNA to identify and monitor precise locations in DNA. With CTX001, the actual editing is done by Crispr-associated protein 9, or Cas9, enzyme that programs RNA to silence genes and provide immunity against invading genetic material. Cas9 also harnesses RNA to cut DNA at precise points in genomes, making it possible to delete, insert, or correct defects in human genomes.

CTX001 is designed to edit the patient’s own blood-forming stem cells to correct the errant genes responsible for these inherited diseases. Stem cells are edited with Crispr to produce high levels of healthy fetal hemoglobin, a type of the protein in the blood of newborns, later replaced by adult hemoglobin. The higher levels of fetal hemoglobin from CTX001 are intended to reduce the painful sickle-cell episodes and lower the number of transfusions needed by beta thalassemia patients.

The early- and mid-stage clinical trial is recruiting 45 adult participants at sites in the U.S., Canada, and Europe with severe sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia. The study team is looking primarily for signs of adverse effects from the treatments, but also evidence of engraftment, where blood-forming stem cells begin to make new red and white blood cells and platelets. Researchers will track participants for two years.

Vertex and CRISPR Therapeutics say several participants are now enrolled in the trial — the exact number was not disclosed — and reported on results from the first two patients receiving CTX001. One of the participants has sickle cell disease and the other has beta thalassemia, with each patient receiving one CTX001 infusion.

The patient with sickle cell disease experienced an average of seven painful episodes in the two years before joining the trial. The researchers say this individual experienced engraftment of neutrophils, white blood cells in the immune system, and platelets after 30 days. In the four months following the infusion, the patient experienced no painful sickle cell episodes.

The participant with beta thalassemia required an average of 16.5 transfusions in the two years before the trial. The study team reports the patient achieved neutrophil engraftment in 33 days and platelet engraftment in 37 days after receiving CTX001. In the nine months following the infusion, the participant became transfusion independent, requiring no further transfusions.

However both participants reported serious adverse events during the trial. The sickle cell patient experienced sepsis, gallstones, and abdominal pain, while the beta thalassemia participant experienced pneumonia and veno-occlusive liver disease, where small blood vessels leading to and inside the liver are blocked. The study team says these adverse effects were not related to CTX001 treatments and resolved in each case.

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Consortium to Advance A.I. in Longevity Research

Hands of older person

(Steve Buissinne, Pixabay)

18 Nov. 2019. A group of academic, foundation, and business organizations are collaborating on the use of artificial intelligence in research on extending life spans. The Longevity A.I. Consortium is underway at Kings College London with an initial funding of £7 million, following a conference on A.I. in longevity research held last week at the university.

The conference, called the A.I. for Longevity Summit, discussed the application of A.I. to change the focus of longevity studies from treatment to prevention of age-related diseases, and to promote precision health solutions. Organizers of the event say the conference brought together financial and insurance executives together with scientists and government officials to consider the direction of research for benefiting older individuals, the fastest growing demographic group.

The Longevity A.I. Consortium, residing at Kings College, is an off-shoot of the conference, formed by Biogerontology Research Foundation and Deep Knowledge Ventures. The Biogerontology Research Foundation says it’s the U.K.’s leading non-profit organization advocating for and supporting research on aging, particularly the shift from treating diseases to personalized precision medicine. The Deep Knowledge Group is an international collaboration of businesses and not-for-profit organizations supporting advanced applications of artificial intelligence in a wide range of industries, including pharmaceuticals and health care.

The consortium is expected to provide resources for development of A.I.-driven tools for precision diagnostics, prognostics, personalized therapies, and preventive treatments. The group’s agenda also includes developing a cloud-based panel of biomarkers related to aging, with incentives for doctors and health care providers to participate. The consortium’s work is likewise expected to promote research into the role of the microbiome in diagnostics and therapeutics, as well as advanced cosmetics. In addition, the group plans to study complementary financial and behavioral factors affecting the overall lifestyle quality of people as they age.

Joining the consortium is the not-for-profit organization Longevity UK that advocates for research and development and public policies in the U.K. supporting an aging population. Also in the consortium are the companies Aging Analytics Agency and Insilico Medicine. Aging Analytics Agency, based in London, provides analytics on aging, precision medicine, and the economics of aging. The company’s work covers blockchain and digital health technologies, as well as A.I.

Insilico Medicine, in Hong Kong, develops systems and services that apply artificial intelligence to drug discovery and research on the aging process. The company offers a public online engine called aging.ai that analyzes demographic characteristics, and 19 to 41 biomarkers from blood samples. In September, Science & Enterprise reported on a paper published by Insilico Medicine and Wuxi AppTech that demonstrated techniques with deep learning to discover new small molecule drugs ready for validation and lab animal tests in 21 days.

According to a statement released through EurekAlert, Biogerontology Research Foundation and Deep Knowledge Ventures will provide £7 million (US $9.1 million) to the consortium over three years for a worldwide Longevity A.I. network. That network will start in the U.K., but is expected to expand to the U.S., Switzerland, Israel, and Singapore.

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Medicare Buy-In Lowers Costs for Some, Raises Others’ Costs

Pills and dollars

(Images Money, Flickr)

18 Nov. 2019. A plan allowing Americans to opt into Medicare at age 50 would lower insurance premiums for those age 50 to 64, but raise premiums for some younger people. These conclusions and others are contained in a report by Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California, published on the public policy research organization’s web site.

A team led by Rand Corp. economist Christine Eibner investigated a proposal to lower the eligibility for Medicare to age 50, from the current minimum age of 65, looking specifically at its effects on insurance coverage, individual-market insurance premiums, and federal health costs. The plan would allow for individuals at age 50 to voluntarily buy into Medicare instead of other health insurance plans, and enjoy the same benefits and limitations as older Americans already in Medicare. This Medicare buy-in proposal is less expansive than tax-supported single-payer plans known as Medicare-for-all offered by some candidates for president.

Eibner and colleagues devised mathematical models to simulate the effects of basic Medicare buy-in, and seven other design scenarios. The plans all assume health insurance tax credits provided under the Affordable Care Act would continue and be available for Medicare buy-in among people age 50 to 64. The cost impacts were calculated on premiums charged for health insurance plans purchased by individuals on the exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA.

The results show expanding Medicare would attract between 2.8 and 7 million Americans age 50 to 64 as participants, depending on the design of the program, with the basic buy-in scheme enrolling some 6 million individuals. Under most scenarios, buying into Medicare would cost Americans age 50 to 64 about $10,000 per year. People in this age group already buying health insurance on the ACA individual plan exchanges, would save from 16 to 35 percent in out-of-pocket costs by opting into Medicare.

“Our findings suggest that Medicare buy-in could offer significantly more-affordable health care coverage to older adults,” says Eibner in a Rand Corp. statement, “while potentially leading to higher premiums for the pool of people remaining on the individual market.” The data show younger people on the individual exchanges would likely pay higher premiums when Medicare buy-in is enacted.

The researchers say this effect is due to younger people on the individual exchanges being less healthy overall than other people their age. When people age 50 to 64 on the individual exchanges buy into Medicare, it would leave behind this younger group, less healthy than their counterparts covered by insurance elsewhere. The result is higher premiums for the remaining individual exchange participants.

The team points out that premiums for the 246 million people in the U.S. under the age of 65, covered by other forms of health insurance would be largely unaffected by any of the Medicare buy-in scenarios.

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What to Think About When Starting Your Business

– Contributed content –

Writing in a notebook

(Lukas, Pexels)

18 Nov. 2019. There’s a lot of considerations that come with starting a business. You have to not only focus on the products or services you want to provide but also spend some time working on general day-to-day running. Some business owners would consider this to be even more important as all successful businesses run smoothly and efficiently whilst providing the services they do. This means you need to make considerations in areas such as finances, marketing and branding as well as your product and service range.

Let’s have a look at some of the considerations you should make when starting your business:

Marketing

Once you know what you’re services and products are going to be you need to think about how you’re going to market these to your potential customers. There are several methods to do this such as using social media, good old fashion flyers and leaflets, television adverts and even using the radio. When marketing your items it’s important to research the methods that are going to speak to your customers the most, try putting out questions and react to the responses that you get.

For example, having a younger clientele may mean that using platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are your best routes. One of the most important parts to consider when it comes to marketing is creating an online presence with a website. Most people will now want to view a business online before making a purchase or using a service.

Financing

For every business, the financing is a key point that can either mean success or failure. It’s important to make sure you have considered how much your general running costs will be as well as including the budget for stock, employees and marketing. At times you may want to seek funding for your business venture and in this situation, it’s likely that you will need to use a business proposal template so that you’re able to show exactly how you see your business running, how successful it’s going to be and in what time scale.

Operations 

It’s essential for you to think about the general operations that are associated with your business. This means thinking about areas such as:

  • Running Costs
  • Marketing Costs and Strategies
  • Payroll
  • Accountancy 
  • Any Employees
  • Logistics

There are several others that will depend on the type of business that you have such as thinking about the different equipment you might need and what type of office/store you need in order to run your business successfully. When it comes to the general operations of your business it’s worth considering outsourcing so you can focus your time on areas that are going to grow your business. Outsourcing areas such as website design, social media marketing, accountancy and data entry can free up a lot of time when it comes to your day-to-day running.

These areas are important for any business, and you should include them in your decision making. You can probably think of others, unique to your enterprise.

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Infographic – Big Wearables Spending Growth Expected

Chart: spending on wearables

Click on image for full-size view (Statista)

16 Nov. 2019. As we reported yesterday, Apple started enrolling participants in three medical research studies, with data collected on people’s iPhones and smart watches. Our friends at Statista this week released a chart showing consumer spending on wearable devices like smart watches is expected to nearly double by 2021, our infographic for this weekend.

Citing a new forecast from the technology market research company Gartner, consumers worldwide spent $32.4 billion on wearable devices in 2018, with that spending expected to rise to $63 billion by 2021. Most of these devices will be worn on the wrist as smart watches, sport watches, or with devices built into the wrist bands.

Spending on head-mounted displays — remember Google Glass? — are expected to nearly triple, with spending on ear buds also expected to rise. Consumers are likewise expected to triple their spending on smart clothing, where sensors are woven into fabrics, rather than wearing a separate device.

Gartner says increased miniaturization will make sensors and devices smaller and less obtrusive, driving adoption of wearables. At the same time, says the report, data security and privacy will become another key factor influencing consumer decisions.

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Update – Enrollment Opens in Apple Medical Studies

Research app screenshots

Screenshots from Apple Research app. Click on image for full-size view. (Apple Inc.)

15 Nov. 2019. Three medical research studies using Apple iPhones and watches as data collection devices are now available for enrollment with the company’s Research app. Apple first announced the Research app and proposed medical studies at the company’s new-product roll-out in September, reported on Science & Enterprise.

The Research app aims to ease the process for taking part in medical research for iPhone and Apple Watch users. The app displays studies designed for the app’s software, particularly research requiring large numbers of enrollees and following participants over extended periods of time. The studies also take advantage of other features in iPhone and watch software, such as location and activity tracking.

One project, the Apple Women’s Health Study, aims to gain a better understanding of menstrual cycles and gynecologic conditions including infertility, menopause, and polycystic ovary syndrome. The research is a joint undertaking of Apple with Harvard University’s public health school and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of NIH. The study collects data on menstrual experiences and cycles with monthly surveys. The researchers expect to collect the data over several years, correlating survey responses with physical activity, mobility, and reproductive health issues.

“In the past it’s been very difficult to quantify behavioral factors,” says bio-statistics professor Jukka-Pekka Onnela, a researcher on the project, in a university statement, “With data from smartphones and wearable devices, we can eventually measure these factors unobtrusively over long periods of time.”

A second study joins Apple with American Heart Association and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to study heart health and physical movement. The Apple Heart and Movement Study collects data with iPhones and watches on physical activity and mobility, correlated with heart rate and rhythm, to reveal early warning signs of impending heart disease, such as atrial fibrillation.

The third project, the Apple Hearing Study, assesses exposure to noise over time and its effects on hearing loss. Apple and University of Michigan’s public health school are partnering to capture data from participants’ iPhone and watches on noise exposure, using the devices’ recording capabilities.

“For the very first time ,at an individual level,” says Michigan public health professor Rick Neitzel in a university statement, “we’ll have a holistic sense of people’s noise exposures. We’ll start to be able to evaluate the link between music and hearing loss, and how long-term sound exposure can impact stress levels and cardiovascular health.”

Apple says in a company statement that the Research app has features that enable data sharing only when the participant approves, and includes clear, detailed specifications for informed consent.

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