UCLA Researchers Unveil Virtual Microscope Capable of Spotting Cancer Cells

Researchers at UCLA reveal a new digital camera chip capable of enlarging images and identifing cancers and other cell-level abnormalities with the same accuracy that expensive pathology microscopes currently do, opening up the possibility of far greater access to high quality imaging services in remote areas. The work comes from the lab of Aydogan Ozcan, a professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering at UCLA. His lab has been focused on advancing cheaper imaging technologies for years. “This is a milestone in the work we’ve been doing,” he says.

UCLA Researchers Unveil Virtual Microscope Capable of Spotting Cancer Cells

The new microscope does not rely on the powerful, but expensive, optical lenses that modern pathology microscopes use to create magnified images. Instead, the device designed by Ozcan’s lab works by shingling an LED into the tissue or blood sample being examined. As this light hits the sample, shadows are created, and a simple sensor array captures the pattern made by these shadows. This data is then processed by algorithms to construct a highly accurate digital image.  The new device renders the image in 3D, as a hologram, and highlights points of contrast to help pathologists quickly and easily detect abnormalities.  “This is the first time tissue samples have been imaged in 3D using a lens-free on-chip microscope,” says Ozcan. The new device also offers workflow improvements for pathologists. The image view can be zoomed in to the cellular level, and then explored at that level without requiring the pathologist to zoom out, move the focal point of the microscope, and then refocus and re-zoom the lens. This lets the pathologist navigate the image at the cell-level much faster than they can with today’s technology.

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American Well Raises $80 Million Series C To Scale Up Its Telehealth Platform

Boston, MA-based American Well announces that it has raised an $80 million Series C, adding a significant exclamation point at the end of an already spectacular year of funding for the digital health sector. The funding round was oversubscribed as investors from unnamed private equity and corporate partners, including some of the largest health plans and academic medical centers in the country, lined up for the opportunity to investment in the emerging telehealth market. The new round brings American Well’s total funding to $128 million since its launch.

American Well Raises $80 Million Series C To Scale Up Its Telehealth Platform

Founded in 2006, American Well is now the largest provider of telehealth services in the US. The company will connect a patient with a doctor through its smartphone app or on a computer. The sessions cost $49 each and provides a 10-minute doctors visit, which includes a diagnosis and prescription, when possible. While $49 is expensive, compared to an office visit, its about on par with the co-pay most insurances require for a visit to an urgent care center or emergency department. There is also the cost of convenience to consider. For many people, the last thing they want to do when they are truly sick is get out of bed, get dressed, and go to the doctors office. For routine care scenarios, there is a lot to like about the telehealth care delivery model.

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HIE 2.0: Data Exchanges Face Consolidation Or Elimination

This week the Colorado Quality Health Network, one of the nation’s first health information exchange platforms, announced that it would be partnering with 20 other HIEs from across the US to form an HIE trade association. The group hopes to begin pursuing new business opportunities through joint ventures by building national data exchange capabilities. The news is not unprecedented; there are already a small but growing number of similar partnerships working to establish national exchange capabilities in the US. In February 2014, 16 regional HIEs operating in the mid-West announced that they would form a consortium, providing mid-West health systems a broader reach in their efforts to coordinate care. CommonWell, a vendor-led, not-for-profit health information exchange, is also pushing to stand up a national exchange platform.

HIE 2.0: Data Exchanges Face Consolidation Or Elimination

This very trend was anticipated by ONC leadership as early as 2004, when Dr. David Brailer, the first National Coordinator for Health IT, called for a national health information exchange network to be established. While a truly integrated national HIE would have countless positive benefits for care coordination, the wave of consolidation passing through the HIE market today is not being driven by a desire to improve care. These are business decisions being made by regional HIEs that are struggling to reach financial sustainability.

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In 2014, Google Ventures Quadrupled Its Investments In Life Sciences and Healthcare

Google Ventures, the investment arm of Google, had $425 million in VC funding to distribute in 2014, up from the $300 million it invested in 2013 and 2012. Because Google is, well, Google, the technology industry pays particular attention to where it invests its money and this year Google bet big on digital health. It’s one of many signs that Google is going all in on life sciences, despite founder Sergey Brin’s now famous assessment that “Health is just so heavily regulated, it’s just a painful business to be in.”

In 2014, Google Ventures Quadrupled Its Investments In Life Sciences and Healthcare

To provide some context, in both 2012 and 2013 Google invested 9 percent of its available funds on health and life sciences startups. During those years, commerce startups and consumer apps were Google’s primary target. For example, in 2013, Google invested $258 million in Uber, its largest deal to date. In 2014, Google’s investment portfolio was flipped on its head, with massive investments in digital health, and only small investments in commerce and consumer apps. Google funneled 36 percent of its 2014 investment fund into digital health companies, accounting for around $150 million of its total investments.

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Serial Entrepreneur Munjal Shah Launches Health IQ App, Closes $5.5 Million Seed Round

Google is calling 2014 the year of the health and fitness app. After crunching some numbers from its app store, Google found that fitness apps were the fastest growing sector in its mobile ecosystem. As a result, presumably, consumers are walking around with more fitness data at their fingertips than ever before. A lot of time, money, and effort has gone into making sure that data could be extracted, shared, normalized, analyzed, poked, and prodded, but until now, no one had launched a startup focused on making sure consumers know what all that data means.

Serial Entrepreneur Munjal Shah Launches Health IQ App, Closes $5.5 Million Seed Round

Sunjal Shah, a serial entrepreneur with multiple successful startups under his belt including Like.com, which sold to Google for a rumored $100 million, has just launched a free new app designed to measure and improve health literacy. Shah has been operating in stealth mode since his company’s 2013 launch. While the digital health industry at large is betting big on personalized health data pushing consumers to make healthier choices, Shah thinks an overlooked but potentially powerful alternative strategy is to set aside the quantified-self tools and tackle health literacy instead.

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Digital Health Boom Spurs New Accelerators, Investment Funds

Its no secret that digital health investments are booming. The industry is likely to close out 2014 with something north of $4 billion in new investments, more than doubling 2013’s $2 billion year. Now, in a sign that the money will continue to flow, major institutions are announcing new investment funds that are targeting digital health startups.

Digital Health Boom Spurs New Accelerators, Investment Funds

Last week, Milestone Venture Partners announced that it has raised its fifth investment round since its 1999 launch. The new round, $150 million in total, is Milestone’s first that will be fully invested in early-state digital health startups. The company expects to close its first investment from the new funds in Q1 or Q2 of 2015.

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Doctor On Demand’s Redesign and New Focus

Telehealth startup Doctor On Demand wasted no time putting its newly raised $21 million Series A investment to use. The company closed its funding round in August 2014, and has since completely rewritten its mobile app, giving it a new look and feel, and adding new pieces of functionality that were key to its scale-up strategy. In its new version, Doctor on Demand is introducing online appointment booking features so that patients can schedule virtual visits for a time that is convenient for them.

The new scheduling feature represents a shift away from its original concept of providing “on Demand” access to medical consultations. Beyond offering more convenient scheduling options for its users, Doctors on Demand invested in the new feature because it was a necessary step before it could roll out its next two new services, virtual lactation consultations and psychiatric appointments.

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The Rise and Fall of Happtique, mHealth’s First App Prescribing Platform

Today Happtique announces that it has been acquired by Las Vegas, NV-based digital health company SocialWellth for an undisclosed amount. Happtique launched in 2010 and for a period was a big name in the mHealth space, though it never actually managed to accomplish anything meaningful for the industry. Happtique launched as a spinoff from the Greater New York Hospital Association, and had financial backing from GNYHA Ventures, the for-profit investment arm of the Greater New York Hospital Association. In 2010, the mHealth app market was unregulated and there was growing consensus that something had to be done about the ridiculous medical claims being made by some app developers. It was not at all uncommon to hear people charge mHealth app developers with being snake oil salesmen.

While many took these complaints directly to the FDA, the government did not issue regulatory guidance on the mHealth market until late 2013. In the interim, Happtique launched with the goal of developing a rigorous certification program for mHealth apps that would convey to potential users that it was a safe and legitimate app. The company’s monetization strategy involved building a library of clinically-vetted apps, and then sell access to this library to health systems so that providers could “prescribe” mHealth apps to support disease management, improve medication adherence, and help patients make healthy lifestyle changes.

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