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World Health Day: Advanced MedTech solutions on the worldwide radar

Yehia El Amine

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advanced MedTech solutions

Over the course of the past year, health has been nudged into the limelight due to the rampant spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it commanded the global news cycle on a daily basis.

But while the worldwide economy suffered, the ripple affect caused by the screeching halt of in-contact interactions, many looked at this period as a time of awakening for people to start actively focusing on their wellbeing.

With the eyes of the world on the health sector, accelerated ingenuity came within the field of medicine, specifically MedTech. Everything from funding, volunteers, and continental collaborations, were drawn up to fight the pandemic.

With COVID-19 spearheading the fight for accelerating MedTech, companies and researchers saw an opportunity to use the attention caused by the pandemic toward both the scientific advantage of medical technology and for the greater cause of helping humanity.

As such, on the occasion of World Health Day, here are some advanced MedTech solutions and initiatives that are picking up traction on the global radar.

AstraZeneca developing tech for heart failure, asthma

Biotechnology company AstraZeneca announced on Tuesday that its currently collaborating with Massachusetts General Hospital to create and clinically validate patient centric advanced MedTech solutions.

According to the company, the collaboration will use AstraZeneca’s new AMAZE disease management platform to study heart failure and asthma management. 

“We are incredibly proud to be working closely with Massachusetts General Hospital to utilize this digital platform to close gaps in patient care, ultimately leading to better outcomes,” Ruud Dobber, president of the BioPharmaceuticals Business Unit at AstraZeneca, said in a statement.

The biotechnology company notes that its AMAZE disease management platform uses remote monitoring to identify at-risk patients and deliver insights to the clinical care team at the point of care, all while reducing healthcare costs.

As per the details of the heart failure case study found on ClinicalTrials.gov, patients enter personal information using the AMAZE app, which will feed it into a clinician-facing dashboard embedded within their electronic health record. 

Patients will be enrolled in the study after an inpatient heart-failure admission at Massachusetts General Hospital. The organizations say the first two studies are aimed at piloting AMAZE in a real-world setting with the goal of improving patient engagement, care-team communication, and clinical outcomes. 

“We believe the AMAZE disease management platform has the potential to transform the current healthcare delivery paradigm for patients around the world living with chronic diseases,” said Dobber. 

Following both cases of heart failure and asthma, Massachusetts General and AstraZeneca highlight that they are on looking to expand the use of AMAZE across multiple chronic disease areas to patients throughout and beyond the Mass General Brigham system. 

“While there is no precedent for this type of deep relationship, we hope this alliance will serve as a model for future collaboration between pharma and healthcare providers,” said Dr. Peter L. Slavin, president of Massachusetts General Hospital. 

UK govt funds domestic MedTech and life science industries

The British government launched on Wednesday a multi-million-pound fund to support the MedTech and life sciences sectors, called the “Medicines and Diagnostics Manufacturing Transformation Fund,” which is designed to the country’s ability to prepare and respond to future pandemics.

“With two-thirds of life science manufacturing jobs already outside London and the South East, the new £20 million ($27.54 million) fund will also open up economic and investment opportunities for manufacturers across the whole of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, improving our domestic supply chains and safeguarding and creating hundreds of highly skilled manufacturing jobs,” a government statement said.

The UK has one of the strongest and most productive health and life sciences industries globally, with a turnover of £80 billion and supporting 256,000 jobs, underpinned by a powerful research landscape and high-quality science base.

“This will not only boost the UK’s already strong vaccine and medicine portfolio but support top quality, local jobs across the country and put the UK in a formidable position to continue responding to the most pressing global challenges of our time,” Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng commented.

COVID-19 advanced MedTech solutions

UK-based healthcare company Medichecks launched a new antibody test to track unique responses to COVID-19 or the vaccine.  According to research conducted by the NHS, men reportedly produce higher antibodies levels in response to COVID-19.

Medichecks’ CE-marked finger-prick test can be taken at home and detects antibodies to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2.

According to the company, results are available within two to three days and will identify a figure on a scale of 0.4 to 2500 (units per milliliter). A score of below 0.8 means no antibodies were detected; anything above this shows the presence of antibodies to the virus.

This will allow individuals to track and monitor their antibody levels, which would prove highly beneficial in terms of information on immune responses of different people; the company explained that the test can be done at three-to-four-month intervals, to measure variation.

“What is being learnt about COVID-19’s impact on the immune system is still a moving target, but this test lets people monitor their antibody levels over time. It is not yet known how long immunity, once it has developed, will fade, what level of antibodies provides immunity to coronavirus or at what level re-vaccination will be needed,” Dr. Sam Rodgers, chief medical officer at Medichecks, said in statement.

Manufactured by Roche, the Anti-SARS-CoV-2-S coronavirus antibody test is priced at £69.

Medichecks posts a sample collection kit to customers together with full instructions on how to collect a blood sample in a small vial at home. The sample is then posted to a UKAS accredited laboratory for analysis. The result, accompanied by a doctor’s interpretation, is uploaded to the customer’s online dashboard.

The rise of wearable MedTech

Wearable medical devices have been on the up and up for many around the world, as they take a more serious view within their own wellbeing; in parallel, the manufacturers and big tech companies have capitalized.

According to market research company Mordor Intelligence, the wearable medical devices market was valued at $19,450 million in 2020 and is expected to reach $47,837 million by 2026, registering a CAGR of about 16 percent over the forecast period.

Wearable devices play a crucial role in predicting certain disorders by integrating essential vital signs with clinical symptomology.

For instance, in 2020, researchers at Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute in the United States reported that data from the Oura Ring, a wearable sleep and activity tracker, can be combined with an app that measures vital signs that predict in advance if an individual is likely to develop COVID-19 symptoms.

The device successfully predicted that an individual would experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, fever up to three days before they manifested.

“The wearable medical devices market is growing at a faster pace owing to the rising technological innovations and advancements, as they can improve the lifestyle of general population as well as patient population,” the report by Mordor Intelligence highlighted.

Wearable technologies proffer a convenient mode of monitoring physiological symptoms, featuring a multitude of advanced MedTech solutions.

Yehia is an investigative journalist and editor with extensive experience in the news industry as well as digital content creation across the board. He strives to bring the human element to his writing.

MedTech

Sleep therapy device raises over $315.38 in crowdfunding

Karim Husami

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A UK-designed sleep therapy solution with global ambitions raised over $314.21 in the first week of a Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign.

SleepCogni, a portable device with data support for people suffering from insomnia, has so far attracted funds from 157 different investors in this latest fundraiser that combines venture capital investments and crowdfunding.

The firm’s latest lenders include Chasnay ​​Capital Investments, a new private investment fund founded by three former senior executives from General Electric (GE) Healthcare.

Co-founded by Sheffield-based entrepreneur Richard Mills, who has personally suffered from sleeping disorders, and Dutch chronobiologist and sleep expert, Dr Maan van de Werken, said the device allows users to self-manage their insomnia, a condition which affects one in three people across the world.

“Our successful crowdfund campaign builds on the momentum of last month’s FDA registration and the completion of clinical trials where SleepCogni achieved extraordinary results reducing clinical insomnia in just seven days.”

Reinaldo Garcia from Chasnay Capital Investments added: “We’re excited by our investment into SleepCogni for many reasons: its patented technology and clinically validated solution addresses an unmet need in the global sleep aid market, and the company is backed by an excellent team. As experienced global senior leaders with a proven track record, we can add value in this next exciting stage of the business and help SleepCogni scale on a global level.”

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Pfizer vaccine efficacy falls to 84% after 6 months

Hala Turk

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Pfizer and BioNTech published on Wednesday new data indicating their COVID-19 vaccine efficacy decline from 96 percent to 84 percent over six months.

These numbers are regarded as a big motivator to the drug makers currently developing a third “booster shot” to target the Indian Delta variant. 

The released data shows that the antibody levels are much higher against the Alpha coronavirus variant and the South African Beta variant, after a third dose.

Based on the figures, the efficacy “declined gradually” as it dropped from 96 percent during the first week to around two months after receiving a second jab. The dose’s effectiveness then plummeted to 83.7 percent four to six months later with an average drop of 6 percent over the last two months.

The findings may be considered by U.S. health authorities in deciding when the pair’s booster shot might be needed.

The data, which involved tests of 23 people, was published by Pfizer and has not been peer reviewed by the scientific community.

The announcement of the data and was released on the day of the company’s earnings call.

During the call, Mikael Dolsten chief scientific officers described the new data on a third dose of vaccine “encouraging.”

“Receiving a third dose more than six months after vaccination, when protection may be beginning to wane, was estimated to potentially boost the neutralizing antibody titers in participants in this study to up to 100 times higher post-dose three compared to pre-dose three,” Dolsten said in a statement.

Despite Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech’s booster shot plans, both Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a joint statement highlighting that Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this moment in time.

The statement noted that FDA, CDC, and National Institutes of Health (NIH) are engaged in a science-based process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary.

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Google delays return to office, mandates vaccines

Associated Press

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Google delays return to office, mandates vaccines

Google is postponing a return to the office for most workers until mid-October and rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone to be vaccinated once its sprawling campuses are fully reopened.

The more highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is driving a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Google’s Wednesday announcement was shortly followed by Facebook, which also said it will make vaccines mandatory for U.S. employees who work in offices. Exceptions will be made for medical and other reasons.

In an email sent to Google’s more than 130,000 employees worldwide, CEO Sundar Pichai said the company is now aiming to have most of its workforce back to its offices beginning Oct. 18 instead of its previous target date of Sept. 1.

The decision also affects tens of thousands of contractors who Google intends to continue to pay while access to its campuses remains limited.

“This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it,” Pichai wrote.

And Pichai disclosed that once offices are fully reopened, everyone working there will have to be vaccinated. The requirement will be first imposed at Google’s Mountain View, California, headquarters and other U.S. offices, before being extended to the more than 40 other countries where Google operates.

“This is the stuff that needs to be done, because otherwise we are endangering workers and their families,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University and a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. “It is not fair to parents to be expected to come back to work and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with unvaccinated people who could be carrying a potentially deadly virus.”

Because children under the age of 12 aren’t currently eligible to be vaccinated, parents can bring the virus home to them from the office if they are around unvaccinated colleagues, Wen said.

Various government agencies already have announced demands for all their employees to be vaccinated, but the corporate world so far has been taking a more measured approach, even though most lawyers believe the mandates are legal.

Delta and United airlines are requiring new employees to show proof of vaccination. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are requiring their employees to disclose their vaccination status, but are not requiring staffers to be vaccinated.

Less than 10% of employers have said they intend to require all employees to be vaccinated, based on periodic surveys by the research firm Gartner.

While other major technology companies may follow suit now that Google and Facebook have taken stands on vaccines, employers in other industries still may be reluctant, predicted Brian Kropp, chief of research for Gartner’s human resources practice.

“Google is seen as being such a different kind of company that I think it’s going to take one or two more big employers to do something similar in terms of becoming a game changer,” Kropp said.

Google’s vaccine mandate will be adjusted to adhere to the laws and regulations of each location, Pichai wrote, and exceptions will be made for medical and other “protected” reasons.

“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Pichai explained.

Google’s decision to require employees working in the office to be vaccinated comes on the heels of similar moves affecting hundreds of thousands government workers in California and New York as part of stepped-up measures to fight the delta variant. President Joe Biden also is considering mandating all federal government workers be vaccinated.

The rapid rise in cases during the past month has prompted more public health officials to urge stricter measures to help overcome vaccine skepticism and misinformation.

The vaccine requirement rolling out in California next month covers more than 240,000 government employees. The city and county of San Francisco is also requiring its roughly 35,000 workers to be vaccinated or risk disciplinary action after the Food and Drug Administration approves one of the vaccines now being distributed under an emergency order.

It’s unclear how many of Google’s workers still haven’t been vaccinated. In his email, Pichai described the vaccination rate at the company as high.

Google’s decision to extend its remote-work follows a similar move by another technology powerhouse, Apple, which recently moved its return-to-office plans from September to October, too.

The delays by Apple and Google could influence other major employers to take similar precautions, given that the technology industry has been at the forefront of the shift to remote work triggered by the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Even before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March 2020, Google, Apple and many other prominent tech firms had been telling their employees to work from home. This marks the third time Google has pushed back the date for fully reopening its offices.

Google’s vaccine requirement also could embolden other employers to issue similar mandates to guard against outbreaks and minimize the need to wear masks in the office.

While most companies are planning to bring back their workers at least a few days a week, others in the tech industry have decided to let employees do their jobs from remote locations permanently.


SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP)

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