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The VA’s Call For AI Tools

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a call for two different types of health-related artificial intelligence tools on the heels of President Joe Biden’s AI executive order issued this week. That order aims to place guardrails on the use and development of AI to protect both national security and society (read our colleague David Jean’s dispatch from the White House here).

The VA’s “tech sprint” is focused on reducing healthcare worker burnout by offering a combined $1 million in prizes for companies competing to build automated note-taking tools for doctors, as well as software that can combine medical records from different sources. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also launched a campaign for hospitals to tackle healthcare worker burnout this week.

The VA’s chief AI officer Gil Alterovitz told Forbes that the agency is specifically focused on using technology to attack administrative burden. A conversation-to-text solution means that “physicians can actually look you in the eye and have that conversation with you, as opposed to typing on the computer.” The advantage to AI-enabled document processing means “they don’t have to manually look through hundreds of different pieces of paper.”

Alterovitz said the selected companies will work in a “simulated environment” with synthetic medical record patient data so the VA can compare different solutions. “It’s a three-month engagement – you can think of it as a bridge toward potential private-public partnerships – that allow us to take a journey together,” he said. Applications close on January 5, 2024. More information here.

Some Apple Watches Are About To Be Banned In The U.S. What Happens Next?

A new International Trade Commission ruling to stop some Apple Watch imports could help medtech company Masimo reach a settlement with the $2.7 trillion tech giant after a years-long patent battle. It’s an important bargaining chip for Masimo founder and CEO Joe Kiani, who said his company has spent upwards of $65 million related to ongoing patent and trade secret litigation with Apple over its pulse oximeter, a blood oxygen sensor that has become a selling point for premium smartwatches and fitness trackers.

Read more here.

Pipeline & Deal Updates

FDA Approvals: The FDA’s been busy for the past few days, having issued several approvals, including: Lilly’s first-in-class ulcerative colitis drug Omvoh, Novartis’ Cosentyx for moderate-to-severe cases of the skin condition hidradenitis suppurativa, a third indication for Genetech’s eye treatment Vabysmo and Coherus’ & Junshi Biosciences’ Loqtorzi for nasopharyngeal carcinoma.Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: The FDA also approved Santhera Pharmaceuticals drug Agamree for treating Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Meanwhile, both Roche and Sarepta Therapeutics saw their shares tumble after announcing Monday that the phase III trial for their DMD drug Elevidys failed to reach its primary endpoint, though it did meet several secondary endpoints.

Polypeptides: Pittsburgh-based Imagine Pharma, which is developing a novel polypeptide drug candidate with potentially wide therapeutic application, announced it has raised a $32.5 million series A led by IP Investors LLC.

Small Molecules: Gate Bioscience, which is developing small molecules to target extracellular proteins, announced it has emerged from stealth with a $60 million series A co-led by Versant Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.

Gene Therapy: AstraZeneca announced it’s entered into a collaboration agreement with biotech company Cellecitis to develop new gene and cell therapies. As part of the deal, AstraZeneca is initially making a $25 million cash payment to Cellecitis and also making an $80 million equity investment. An additional second investment of $140 million is expected to close in early 2024, pending approvals, and Cellecitis is additionally eligible for up to $220 in milestone payments, plus royalties on drugs developed from the collaboration.

Drone Delivery: The Cleveland Clinic said it plans to start using zones in partnership with Zipline to send specialty medications for patients in northeast Ohio starting in 2025. Eventually the health system plans to send lab samples, surgical supplies and other items.

AI: Covera Health, a startup using AI to improve the accuracy of radiology imaging, said it has raised $25 million in committed Series C financing led by Insight Partners, with the possibility of another $25 million in the future.

Drug Targets: 23andMe has extended a data licensing collaboration with GSK for $20 million. The drugmaker will gain access to de-identified genetic data to identify new drug targets.

This Startup Raised $30 Million To Take On Microsoft’s AI Notetaker For Doctors

The Series B round led by Spark Capital values 5-year old Abridge, which is used by 5,000 doctors, at $200 million. It’s up against Nuance, which Microsoft bought for $18.8 billion, and whose more rudimentary dictation software is used by half a million doctors. But Nuance only recently announced fully automated medical note-taking technology that doesn’t require a human in the loop to check for accuracy. In other words, the race to dominate the market for AI medical scribes is still anyone’s to win.

Read more here.

Other Healthcare News

CVS Health reported net income of $2.2 billion with revenues increasing in part to acquisitions of Oak Street Health and Signify Health.

GlaxoSmithKline boosted its profit forecast for the second time this year amid booming demand for its new RSV vaccine.

Sanofi and AstraZeneca’s RSV immunization for infants called nirsevimab is in limited supply, so the CDC has recommended prioritizing doses for high risk infants.

Over one in five coronary stents were unnecessary, costing Medicare $800 million a year and putting patients at risk of complications, a new report found.

A European Union agency said there is no proven link between weight loss drugs like Ozempic or Wegovy and thyroid cancer.

A patient who received the second-ever pig heart transplant died six weeks after the surgery.

Across Forbes

A Platform Storing TikTok Corporate Secrets Was Inspected By The Chinese Government

How To Profit From Loopholes In The Efficient Market

Hedge Fund Billionaire John Overdeck’s Estranged Wife Sues Over Movement Of Trust Assets To Wyoming Before Her Divorce Filing

What Else We are Reading

Life science investors close nearly $6 billion in new funds (STAT)

Some deaf children in China can hear after gene treatment (MIT Technology Review)

A New Era of Vaccines Leaves Old Questions About Prices Unanswered (KFF Health News)

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