The Biotech Showcase has been held during the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference for the past seven years as a concurrent networking opportunity for biotech and life sciences companies. This year, the organizers expanded the program to include a special one-day Digital Health Showcase on January 13, 2016, to highlight the key role digital therapeutics are playing in the evolution of the monitoring and treatment of disease. The day kicked off with a discussion on the state of the digital health industry with moderator Yarmela Pavlovic, a partner with law firm Hogan Lovells, and panelists Vivek Bhatt, Chief Technology Officer, GE Healthcare Life Care; Eric Elenko, Executive VP, Science and Technology, PureTech; Christine Lemke, Chief Product Officer, Evidation Health; and Kevin McRaith, CEO, WellDoc. Below, Lemke shares her insider’s take on the group’s main points:
- Many key challenges remain for digital products and services, including but not limited to: reimbursement, evidence that links products to outcomes, patient engagement with these solutions, and especially finding the right talent that includes a blend of healthcare, software, and consumer design experts.
- True digital replacement therapies are on the horizon, but will take time to mature. These solutions are going through clinical trials to prove their efficacy and FDA approval. One example is Akili (www.akili.com), a digital therapy for ADHD and eventually other neurodegenerative diseases.
- Areas where biopharma can employ digital health for greatest impact include early disease detection, progression monitoring, quantifying risk, reducing churn, patient engagement, and medication adherence. In the future, many biopharmas and biotech companies may have a digital therapy division with its own pipeline.
- Patient advocacy groups can be involved by helping to engage their constituents, actively participate in the user experience and design, and potentially serve as a trusted entity to escrow data.
- Ways to impact digital health meaningfully through investment of dollars (without expectation of IRR) in digital health: running more evidence-generating trials and studies, sequencing everyone, democratizing EMR/EHR data, and creating ultra affordable, convenient access to lab tests.
More Takeaways From #DHS16
- How the FDA thinks about a new product depends on how it perceives its risk level, considering whether it's standing in for a clinician and making diagnoses and suggesting treatment plans, for example, or just providing supplemental metrics that the doctor then interprets.
- Startups should view the FDA approval process as less of a burden and more of a step toward positive validation that can be used in reimbursement discussions with potential customers.
- Some 20 new companies presented at the Digital Health Showcase. Common selling points included personalization, patient-led innovation, coaching, gamification, tapping into the cloud, data-driven decisions, value-based solutions, integration into clinical trials, and an emphasis on prevention.
- Virtual reality is being applied in healthcare with tools developed by companies like DeepStream VR. Its first commercial product Cool! is being used to treat pain. Its corporate partners include NIH, Boston Children's Hospital, and Stanford University.
- Thomas Goetz and Matt Mohebbi, veterans of WIRED and Google, continue to refine their Iodine consumer-centered web and mobile products designed to inform better decisions, improve adherence, and optimize clinical care around medicines that treat depression and pain.
- David Gandor, Head of Takeda Digital Accelerator, and Matthew Owens, Global Head Legal, Strategic Partnerships and Digital Medicine for Novartis, agreed during a panel discussion that big pharma is recognizing the need to be more nimble when it comes to applying digital health innovations. Partnerships with innovators with expertise in developing apps, sensors, virtual reality, and other digital health tools are seen as key to integrating digital therapeutics into big pharma strategies.