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A recent posting at our blog, Navigating Venturegenerated heavier than usual response from friends and colleagues at a number of biotech firms, so we thought we'd take the opportunity to share it - along with a few other popular pieces - with a wider audience within our healthcare network. 

 

The promise of personalized cancer treatment

The Wall Street Journal has recently devoted coverage to dramatic advances in the field of personalized oncology, in which genomic responses to therapies are leading to breakthroughs in cancer treatment.  One of our Florida-based portfolio companies, MolecularMD, provides highly validated, standardized pharmacogenomic tests that support regulatory approval and clinical adoption of such targeted cancer treatments. 

 

"At the heart of the change: an emerging ability for researchers to use genetic information to match drugs to the biological drivers of tumors in individuals. Studies released at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology here are helping to support previous findings that personalized medicine-introduced more than a decade ago-is closer to being realized as a weapon to fight cancer...

 

"By targeting mutations, researchers say fewer patients will be needed to prove the efficacy of new drugs, hastening their path to the market. In addition, fewer people will be enrolled in trials of drugs that provide them little hope of benefit.  But the use in drug development of specific genetic traits in tumors, called biomarkers, poses a maze of challenges."  Read more   

 

Molecular MD recently formed a partnership with Medco Health Solutions (NYSE: MHS) to launch a personalized medicine program for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients.  MolecularMD's qRT-PCR BCR-ABL test will be offered as part of the DNA Direct´┐Ż by Medco™ clinical testing program services.  Read more    

 
Also see:
The Clinic of Dr. Gross
Medical Progress, Please
Sleep Apnea
The New Cholesterol

The 25-year old field of sleep medicine includes an enormous group of serious and chronic diseases that remain largely undiagnosed. 

Sean Heyniger, CEO of Watermark Medical
(a portfolio company of ours) likens one of these diseases - sleep apnea - to "cholesterol 30 years ago," as it is "both a risk factor of and an agent that worsens other progressive and chronic diseases."  (E.g. Cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis, myocardial infarcation, hypertension, stroke, and heart failure; and metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes.)

The most common current diagnosis and therapy are expensive and suffer from a high failure rate...  

Read more  


The Clinic of Dr. Gross 

The Clinic of Dr. Gross

This past January in The Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger used the example of the medical devices industry to illustrate the "unimaginable complexity" of our health care system and, by extension, any efforts to reform it.  (He cited Massachusetts as his example, but one could easily substitute Florida and its 92 companies and approximately 4000 jobs.) 

 

"...the health-care industry consists of 340,650 separate establishments employing 5,508,926 people. I leave it to a mathematician to calculate the number of possible economic relationships this would produce every day, much less annually."

 

"One of the jewels of this collection of professionals, which the politicians say is "failing" us, is the U.S. medical-device industry. It has come a long way since the days of "The Clinic of Dr. Gross" in Thomas Eakins's famous painting."   Read more      

 


Medical Progress, Please

Holman Jenkins, writing last March in The Wall Street Journal, succinctly and perfectly describes the brilliance and, sometimes, serendipity involved in breakthrough entrepreneurship. 

"How does a device like MelaFind come into the world? It begins when a small defense contractor specializing in computer vision is approached by pharmaceutical giants seeking objective ways to evaluate unguents for hair growth, wrinkle reduction or wound healing. An adviser to the small company, a world-famous dermatologist, pipes up: 'Wound healing is cool, but if you really want to do something for humanity, help us detect melanomas.'  America having great capital markets, it's possible to raise $130 million for a speculative venture."

In addition to extolling the wizardry of American medicine  and the strength of our capital markets, Mr. Jenkins recounts some of the challenges faced during FDA approval by the current "wave of devices bringing artificial intelligence to bear on medical diagnosis."  The details Mr. Jenkins reports are a clear example of what our friend Rhys Williams has argued before Congress:  in addition to streamlining its approval process the FDA needs to switch from the "zero defect" to the "calculated risk" model.  

 


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