Therapeutic Talk: Protein Therapy for Emerging Virus VEE Launched

Aalto Bio is creating novel therapies for viruses including Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis.

Aalto Bio, a biotech company that has developed novel therapies for new viruses like Dengue, Chikungunya, and Zika, has presented a protein for the detection and diagnosis of Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis (VEE). VEE is a mosquito-borne pathogen that can infect humans, causing flu-like symptoms and headaches for those who are healthy while causing serious illness and death in the young, the elderly, and immunocompromised. There have been 21 reported cases of VEE in the Americas to date.

“This exciting VEEV NSP2 TC83 launch today marks the first in a series of dynamic new products coming from Aalto Bio in the emerging disease space,” said Philip Noone, CEO, Aalto Bio, in a statement. “With this new VEEV NSP2 TC83 protein it enables our customers to bring superior, differentiating diagnostic end-products to market faster which will enable faster diagnosis, identification, and treatment of these deadly viruses.”

While VEE virus has been researched since the 1930s (and was in fact researched by the U.S. and USSR during the Cold War for biological warfare) there is only one virus available that isn’t entirely effective at immunizing humans to VEEV.

Trend Setting: Your Next Doctor Appointment May Be On Your TV

Bringing virtual doctor visits to Americans’ televisions is the aim of a partnership between Cisco, a global tech company, and the telemedicine provider, American Well. While virtual doctor visits are gaining popularity on smartphones and laptops, these companies believe the television is more accessible for older Americans with serious medical conditions.

Cisco plans to develop a device that sits on top of the television and integrates American Well technology. Patients who need regular medical assistance will be able to connect with one of American Well’s doctors and its network of hospitals via a live video feed streaming from the device onto their TV. The innovators hope that having an on-demand doctor on TV could keep seniors from unnecessary emergency room visits and make it more possible for them to live independently.

“We’re such strong believers in making it easier for people to age in their home if they want to,” said Amy Chang, Cisco’s Senior Vice President of Collaboration Technology. “It (the television) is mainstream and it’s easy to use, and we recognize that you run into problems when you push people to change their habits.”

Push to Virtual Healthcare

The project has support as one of many pushes into virtual healthcare. Government and insurance plans are starting to cover virtual visits and hospitals are eager for technology that helps patients at home as they receive increased scrutiny and penalties for failing to appropriately monitor a patient once they are discharged.

Cisco plans to use existing technology like facial and audio recognition to bolster the experience, but is making it a priority to incorporate privacy and consent into these systems. While details for the new project are sparse, Dr. Roy Schoenberg, American Well’s President and CEO, envisions a user, even patients incapacitated or heavily medicated, being able to turn on the device and television, connected to WIFI, and consent to loop in their physician via video as well as a caregiver. From there, they get the treatment they need, or are advised to see a physician in person whenever necessary.

Med Device: First Wearable Migraine Treatment Heads To U.S. Market

Nerivio Migra instantly treats migraines.

The FDA cleared Theranica to market the first-ever wearable device that serves as an acute treatment for migraines. The Nerivio Migra is a device that can be put on the upper arm at any time and controlled via a smartphone app for instant treatment of migraine with or without aura.

The electroceutical utilizes remote electrical neuromodulation, meaning it targets C-fiber nerves, sending electrical pulses that travel to and provide pain relief to the brain stem.

While clinical data proves the medical device can provide significant pain relief during a migraine attack, it comes with none of the adverse side effects that prescription or OTC migraine drugs can cause. “The results of the study demonstrate a high efficacy ratio for single as well as multiple attacks, both at two and 48 hours after treatment,” explained Dr. Brian Grosberg, who was a co-author of an article describing the study of Nerivio Migra.

Theranica plans to release Nerivio Migra to market at an affordable price later this year. Meanwhile, “…we remain committed to continuing our clinical development, expanding the use of remote electrical neuromodulation therapy for additional indications,” said Alon Ironi, CEO and Co-founder of Theranica, in a statement. “We have identified at least seven different painful conditions that may be relieved by this non-invasive, drug-free technology after appropriate clinical development.”

TeleMed Texts: Drug Shortage App Wins MedTech Award

LogicStream Health won the “Clinical Efficiency Innovation Award” by MedTech Breakthrough for its Drug Shortage App. The app is designed to provide healthcare professionals and hospital pharmacists critical early-warning information to manage both supply and demand for specific medications during a shortage. The app allows professionals to see which clinics frequently prescribe and dispense certain medications, manage inventory levels, and evaluate when the shortage is over.

Patrick Yoder, PharmD, Co-founder and CEO, LogicStream Health, says, “Our groundbreaking drug shortage app has tremendous momentum this year with several new major U.S. health systems signing up and a healthy ongoing demand and pipeline. We are thrilled to accept this honor from MedTech Breakthrough and will continue to strive for innovation and excellence in all we do in our mission to combat the nationwide drug shortage crisis.”

Patient Pages: Drug Diversion Contributes to Opioid Epidemic

The pervasiveness of drug diversion in U.S. hospitals is an underreported contribution to the opioid epidemic, BD, a leading global med tech company, reveals. The national survey of 650 hospitals executives and providers (nurses, pharmacists, and anesthesiologists) tells us that while 85% of executives and providers recognize diversion as a serious problem, four out of five believe it’s not an issue in their own facility.

Hospital drug diversion, when a healthcare worker “diverts” opiates or other controlled substances away from patients for personal use or sale, is an undiscussed issue. This report provides first-of-its-kind facts that make it possible to better address drug diversion and how to curb the problem. The BD report reveals that drug diversion can be shockingly prominent in any facility, despite executives’ and providers’ beliefs.

Pushed to the Breaking Point

Many of these same professionals say that the hospital’s stressful work environment may encourage drug diversion; 78% have seen colleagues “pushed to a breaking point.” Fifty percent also reported seeing suspicious activity. Healthcare professionals know that between 10% and 15% of the general population will misuse substances in their lives, but many are unequipped to discuss that healthcare workers are included in this statistic and are more vulnerable than the general population, since they have access to controlled substances.

“This report clearly shows how difficult the issue of drug diversion is to detect, as well as the challenges hospitals and health systems face with tracking and managing cases of diversion within their own facilities,” said Perry Flowers, RPh, Vice President of Medical Affairs at BD. “Diversion is not a new problem in healthcare, but recent advancements in diversion tracking include machine learning to intelligently analyze opioid transactions and reduce false positives. Establishing a culture of open dialogue and reporting that encourages recovery may also be key to efforts that address diversion.”

Indeed, 25% of respondents feel drug diversion tools are effective and 59% want more accurate data to reduce false positives.

FDA Updates

Drug Approvals

The FDA approved an injectable treatment for children 10 years or older with type 2 diabetes called Victoza (liraglutide). While Novo Nordisk’s Victoza has been approved for treating adults since 2010, it is the first non-insulin drug approved to treat type 2 diabetes in pediatric patients since metformin was approved for pediatric use in 2000.

Merck’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) is now approved for treating metastatic or unresectable recurrent head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Keytruda’s trial showed significant improvement in OS for the overall population of patients receiving it along with chemotherapy.

The FDA granted accelerated approval to a chemoimmunotherapy regimen that includes Genentech’s Polivy (polatuzumab vedotin-piiq), in combination with the chemotherapy bendamustine and a rituximab product (a combination known as “BR”). The regimen treats adult patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma) that has progressed or returned after at least two prior therapies. Polivy is an antibody that attaches to a chemotherapy drug and then binds to the specific protein CD79b, found only on B-cells (a type of white blood cell). It releases the chemotherapy drug into those cells, increasing efficacy by 40%.

Medical Device Approvals

The Cerene CryoTherapy Device has been approved for ablating the endometrial lining of a woman’s uterus to reduce heavy menstrual bleeding. Channel Medsystem’s technology uses a freezing agent to destroy the lining via a thin probe that a gynecologist inserts into the cervix and removes. The device is intended to be used in pre-menopausal women with heavy menstrual bleeding due to non-cancerous causes who do not want to become pregnant in the future.

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