Bicycle Health, the virtual opioid use disorder therapy service, will soon be available in 25 states

The startup opioid use disorder therapy service Bicycle Health will soon be available to patients in half the country, just three years after its launch in 2017, according to founder Ankit Gupta.

A serial entrepreneur whose last company, Pulse News, was acquired by LinkedIn back in 2013, Gupta left the LinkedIn in 2016 (around the time of the Microsoft acquisition) to pursue something more meaningful. He settled on trying to find a better way to address the opioid addiction epidemic, which was responsible for more than 42,000 deaths the year he left LinkedIn.

By 2018 deaths from overdoses would exceed 47,000, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

And the problem isn’t going away. Bicycle Health’s statistics indicate that 92 million Americans are potentially at risk for developing opioid use disorder and 2 million Americans are already diagnosed as opioid addicts.

Initially, the company worked out of a clinic in Redwood City, Calif., but as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the US earlier this year and forced treatment facilities to undertake preventative measures to stop the spread of the disease, Bicycle Health began adopting virtual treatment methods.

Under new regulations delivered by HHS, many therapies and drug treatments that had only been available in-person were able to be distributed remotely. The change caused an explosion in remote care services and companies like Bicycle Health rushed to capitalize.

The company is currently offering treatment options in 18 states and is on track to be available in 25 states by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

Backing that growth are a slew of individual and institutional investors led by the venture investment firm, Signalfire, which led Bicycle Health’s seed round. In all, the company has raised roughly $5.5 million from investors including Signalfire, Hustle Fund, Romulus Capital, and individual investors like Jeff Weiner, the former chief executive of LinkedIn; Sami Inkinen, the founder of Virta Health; Rushika Fernandopulle, the founder of Iora Health; and John Simon, the co-founder of General Catalyst through his Greenlight Fund.

Bicycle Health both prescribes buprenorphine as a medical treatment and offers a team of health coaches to address the behavioral and mental health issues attendant with detoxifying.

There are three health coaches on staff to manage the care of the company’s current roster of 2,000 patients and those coaches are bolstered by 12 clinical support specialists, Gupta said.

Treatment is delivered and managed through the company’s mobile app, and is supplemented by regular in-home diagnostic testing to monitor a patient’s progress, according to Gupta.

Working with Goodrx, the company has been able to drive down over-the-counter costs for patients who don’t have healthcare, and Gupta said that Bicycle Health would be working with local and national healthcare providers to try and defray as much of the costs as the company can. 

“We want to subsidize the costs as much as possible for our patient,” he said.  

The goal, Gupta said in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year is “making sure that this industry is making sure that they’re helping people make a change instead of keeping them stuck.”

And although Gupta comes from a software industry whose guiding principle has been to move fast and break things, he realizes that healthcare doesn’t work that way. “Move fast and break things is the wrong mindset for healthcare,” he said. “You have to build a safe space … and i don’t mean a safe space legally but a safe space where patients can be served.”

#california, #co-founder, #disease, #drugs, #founder, #general-catalyst, #goodrx, #healthcare, #hustle-fund, #iora-health, #jeff-weiner, #linkedin, #microsoft, #opioids, #pulse-news, #redwood-city, #romulus-capital, #sami-inkinen, #serial-entrepreneur, #signalfire, #tc, #united-states, #virta-health

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Rock art in a California cave was a visual guide to hallucinogenic plants

This red pinwheel image (left), which is around 500 years old, may depict the unfurling petals of a datura flower (right).

Enlarge / This red pinwheel image (left), which is around 500 years old, may depict the unfurling petals of a datura flower (right). (credit: Rick Bury and Melissa Dabulamanzi)

At a cave in Southern California, archaeologists recently found centuries-old bundles of hallucinogenic plants tucked into crevices in the low ceiling, near a painting that may depict a flower from the same plant, called datura. The painted images may have been a visual aid to help people understand the rituals they experienced in the cave.

Chew on this

University of Central Lancashire archaeologist David Robinson and his colleagues describe the bundles of leaves and stems tucked into the domed ceiling of California’s Pinwheel Cave. The five-armed pinwheel that gives the cave its name is painted in red nearby, attended by a bizarre-looking figure with antennae, eyes pointed in different directions, and a long body. Archaeologists have dubbed it the Transmorph, perhaps because it wouldn’t answer to anything else they tried. Based on radiocarbon dates of the bundles, people placed them in the room’s nooks and crannies over several centuries, from about 1530 to 1890.

That matches the age of charcoal from nearby chambers in the cave, where people left behind traces of more mundane activities: cooking meat, grinding seeds and nuts, and making stone projectile points. Whatever rituals happened in Pinwheel Cave, they weren’t hidden away or separate from everyday life.

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#ancient-north-america, #ancient-people-did-stuff, #archaeology, #cave-art, #cave-paintings, #chumash, #datura, #drugs, #hallucinogenics, #hallucinogens, #indigenous-communities, #indigenous-north-america, #rock-art, #science

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Voters rejecting the war on drugs is a win for public health

On Tuesday, Washington, DC voted to decriminalize psilocybin, and Oregon’s voters approved two landmark reform measures—Measure 109, which legalizes psilocybin therapies, and Measure 110, which decriminalizes personal possession of drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and opioids.

Enlarge / On Tuesday, Washington, DC voted to decriminalize psilocybin, and Oregon’s voters approved two landmark reform measures—Measure 109, which legalizes psilocybin therapies, and Measure 110, which decriminalizes personal possession of drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and opioids. (credit: Getty Images)

As election night ended in the United States, people went to bed still wondering who had won the presidential race, which party would control Congress, and what the future held. But one subject unified the electorate with unexpectedly decisive consistency: drugs.

When asked to relax laws around the use of psychoactive substances, voters said yes, whether they were in the reddest red states or the bluest blue. New Jersey, Arizona, and Montana all voted to legalize recreational cannabis. Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana, and South Dakota legalized both recreational and medicinal uses of weed. “Whenever drug reforms were on the ballot, they won quite handily,” says Leo Beletsky, an epidemiologist and the faculty director of Northeastern University’s Health in Justice Lab. “That shows a hunger for major shifts and reforms across party lines.”

People want a truce in the War on Drugs. Cannabis has been rebranded as a wellness panacea. Mushrooms and MDMA are making headlines as therapy tools, not party fuel. And as the overdose crisis continues, it is ever more apparent to a growing swath of the country that threatening to jail drug users doesn’t reduce drug-related death rates or help families struggling to save their loved ones. Instead, it disproportionately hurts Black communities.

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#cannabis, #drugs, #health, #science

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Ro makes the weight loss product Plenity commercially available to everyone in the U.S.

In what could be the first step in the development of a significant new line of business for the telemedicine prescription provider Ro, the company is finally announcing the general commercial availability of weight loss product, Plenity.

Developed by Gelesis, a biotech company that makes treatments for gastro-intestinal disorders, Plentiy is a weight loss treatment that uses citric acid and cellulose to create a non-toxic paste that makes people feel more full after they ingest it. Taken before meals, the pill becomes a substance that expands to take up about 25% of the stomach, so people eat less.

The product has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is available for a much broader segment of the population than other weight loss products. While most prescription medicines are intended for people who are obese, the Gelesis product is made for people who are overweight, too.

“That’s adults who have a BMI from 25 up to 40. That’s 150 million Americans,” according to Gelesis chief commercial and operating officer, David Pass.

Plenity received FDA approval last April and Gelesis started working with Ro soon after, according to Pass. The idea was to craft a strategy that could get the treatment, which is classified as a medical device and not a drug, in the hands of as many patients as quickly as possible.

For Ro, the agreement with Gelesis is a sign of potential things to come. The company is the exclusive online provider of the Plenity treatment and Ro founder Zachariah Reitano said that there’s an incredible potential to engage in more of these types of deals.

“We would love to be able to partner with pharmaceutical companies to decrease the cost of distribution,” said Reitano. “We were excited to build an exciting treatment solution for weight management. Our high-level mission is to be the patient’s first call.”

With the Gelesis partnership Ro can add another highly desirable treatment to its roster of therapies — and one that can be a contributing factor to increasing the severity of other conditions that the company already provides treatment for, Reitano said. 

“There are a few conditions that we currently treat that are exacerbated by a patient being overweight or obese. People who struggle with weight management will also experience ED. Obesity can lead to heart failure stroke, coronary heart disease, hypetension, depression,” Reitano said. “The breadth of the label is interesting. Only FDA approved with a BMI from 25 to 40. FDA approved treatment have been between 30 and 40. [It] makes the treatment more accessible to a wider variety of people.”

As the only online provider of the treatment, Ro has developed an onboarding process to ensure that the Plenity therapy isn’t abused by people who suffer from eating disorders.

“During our onboarding we not only ask questions to patients about their weight management. There’s a consecutive set of images that need to be uploaded and taken with the provider. That’s something we’ve taken a lot of time and energy to make sure about,” said Reitano. 

Like the other treatments Ro offers, Plenity is a cash pay prescription, because the weight loss treatments aren’t typically covered by insurance, he said.

The benefit of working with an online pharmacy like Ro to provide distribution for a new therapy was obvious to both startups.

“We turned this market on its head by putting the consumer at the heart of everything we do,” said Pass. The treatment costs $98 per month, compared to other therapies or branded medications that could be as much $300 and $350 per month, according to Pass.

One reason that Gelesis is able to reduce the price of the drug is that it won’t have to hire a massive sales force to pitch it. The company has Ro for that.

“Normally you have a pharmaceutical company that would have to hire a sales force and go door to door and it increases the cost of a new drug. [Ro] can make a new, innovative treatment available, like Plenity, available nationwide,” Reitano said. 

#depression, #drugs, #energy, #food-and-drug-administration, #health, #obesity, #officer, #online-pharmacy, #pharmaceutical, #ro, #tc, #telemedicine

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With a Warby Parker playbook, SISU raises funding from Greycroft to face-off against cosmetic clinics

With so many people getting ‘botox’ and ‘filler’ treatments to their faces these days (or are they, during the pandemic?), it’s probably no wonder that Venture Capital has decided to look at the space. In the same way that the small and scattered market of spectacle/optometrist shops were disrupted by startups like Warby Parker, so the extremely variable experience of back-street cosmetic clinics are ripe for targeting.

Step in SISU, a chain of cosmetic clinics created by a serial tech entrepreneur who will apply tech startup methodology to this relatively untapped world.

SISU has now raised a $5.5M Series A fundraise, led by Greycroft and Bullpen Capital. Mana Ventures and the Gaingels Syndicate also participated in the round, alongside angel investors, including Liam Casey, founder ans CEO of PCH, and Dan and Linda Kiely, the co-founders of Voxpro.

The funds will be used to go into the US cosmetic clinics market and standardize ‘facial feature’ pricing for things like lips, chin, under-eye, cheeks and brow. It will also offer treatments such as anti-wrinkle injections, dermal and facial fillers, laser and teeth whitening. There is even going to be a “Face as a service”. So that would be FaaS…

According to SISU, botox consumers are charged per unit, and often sold the maximum number of units, regardless of the results. SISU will set a price for what you want done, and that’s it. A web site will have “instant online evaluations”, and digital bookings.

The company will launch an e-commerce platform in the US and 20 medical-retail clinics are planned for the East Coast. It already eight now in Ireland.

Dubbed by its founders as the ‘One Medical for aesthetic treatments’, SISU is led by Dr. James Cotter, Dr. Brian Cotter, and Irish entrepreneur Pat Phelan, who previously made his name in the telecoms market. Phelan founded both Trustev, which exited to TransUnion in 2015 for $44M, and Cubic Telecom, which exited in 2012.

They are taping into to big market. The ‘medical aesthetics’ market is projected to reach $14.5B by 2023, according to some estimates.

#bullpen-capital, #cubic-telecom, #drugs, #east-coast, #entrepreneur, #europe, #greycroft, #ireland, #laser, #liam-casey, #pch, #tc, #transunion, #united-states, #warby-parker

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Mission Bio raises $70 million to help scale its tech for improving the development of targeted cancer therapies

California-based startup Mission Bio has raised a new $70 million Series C funding round, led by Novo Growth and including participating from Soleus Capital and existing investors Mayfield, Cota and Agilent. Mission Bio will use the funding to scale its Tapestri Platform, which uses the company’s work in single-cell multi-omics technology to help optimize clinical trials for targeted, precision cancer therapies.

Mission Bio’s single-cell multi-omics platform is unique in the therapeutic industry. What it allows is the ability to zero in on a single cell, observing both genotype (fully genetic) and phenotype (observable traits influenced by genetics and other factors) impact resulting from use of various therapies during clinical trials. Mission’s Tapestri can detect both DNA and protein changes within the same single cell, which is key in determining effectiveness of targeted therapies because it can help rule out the effect of other factors not under control when analyzing in bulk (ie. across groups of cells).

Founded in 2012 as a spin-out of research work conducted at UCSF, Mission Bio has raised a total of $120 million to date. The company’s tech has been used by a number of large pharmaceutical and therapeutic companies, including Agios, LabCorp and Onconova Therapeutics, as well as at cancer research centers including UCSF, Stanford and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

In addition to helping with the optimization of clinical trials for treatments of blood cancers and tutors, Mission’s tech can be used to validate genome editing – a large potential market that could see a lot of growth over the next few years with the rise of CRISPR-based therapeutic applications.

#articles, #biology, #biotech, #biotechnology, #california, #cancer, #cancer-research, #crispr, #drugs, #health, #labcorp, #life-sciences, #science, #stanford, #stem-cells, #tc, #ucsf

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Homeopaths sell injections containing strychnine, lead, mercury. Seriously

Homeopaths sell injections containing strychnine, lead, mercury. Seriously

(credit: Global Panorama / Flickr)

The US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday announced a crackdown on four homeopathic companies selling injectable products said to contain highly toxic substances, including lead, mercury, deadly nightshade, and strychnine.

These products—some meant to be injected directly into the bloodstream—are illegal and pose “serious risks to patient health,” the FDA said in an announcement. The agency also made public the warning letters it sent to each of the sellers, all dated June 11.

“These unapproved injectable drugs are particularly concerning because they inherently present greater risks to patients because of how they are administered,” Donald Ashley, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. “These products are further concerning given that they are labeled to contain potentially toxic ingredients intended for injection directly into the body. These warning letters reflect our continued commitment to patient safety.”

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#belladonna, #drugs, #fda, #homeopaths, #injectable-drugs, #pseudoscience, #science

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US FDA pulls its emergency approval of chloroquine use for COVID-19

Image of drug packaging.

Enlarge (credit: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI)

On Monday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoked its Emergency Use Authorization that allowed doctors to prescribe chloroquine and its derivatives to treat SARS-CoV-2 infections. The move came in response to a growing body of data indicating that the drugs had little to no impact on the progression of COVID-19 but retained all of its well-known side effects. But the politics behind these drugs, which have a user list that includes President Donald Trump, will probably continue to drive controversy long after this decision.

The FDA and the soap opera

US law allows the FDA to approve emergency use of therapies under a specific set of circumstances. In late March, with a few small, anecdotal studies suggesting that chloroquine derivatives could improve the prognosis for COVID-19 patients, the FDA determined that the potential benefits outweighed the known risks and granted the drugs an Emergency Use Authorization. This came after doctors had already started prescribing them off-label, leading to shortage of the drugs, which are normally used to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases.

Over time, however, supporting evidence failed to build, and the known side effects—which include the ability to trigger potentially fatal arrhythmias in susceptible patients—continued to be a problem. Responding to some fatal incidents, the FDA updated its Emergency Use Authorization to indicate that the drug should only be used in the context of a clinical trial or in hospitals, where care is available to immediately identify and treat any issues caused by the drugs’ side effects.

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#chloroquine, #covid-19, #drugs, #fda, #pandemic, #policy, #sars-cov-2, #science

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Moderna set to start final-stage trial of its coronavirus vaccine by July

Pharmaceutical company Moderna told Bloomberg on Thursday that it’s on pace to begin the final-stage clinical trial of its vaccine for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 by July. Moderna was the first company to begin human clinical trials of its vaccine candidate in the U.S., and the last stage of its study will include 30,000 people and be conducted in partnership with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

The aim of the study will be to show definitive clinical proof that Moderna’s vaccine actually does prevent people from developing COVID-19, and, secondarily, that it prevents at least severe symptoms and cases that require hospitalization from materializing. Moderna’s second-stage clinical trial kicked off last month, and the company has previously said that it could potentially begin offering experimental doses available to healthcare workers in limited capacities as early as this fall.

The pace of development of a number of leading vaccine candidates is actually moving just as quickly, if not more quickly. Johnson & Johnson said early this week that it would start trials of its vaccine later in July, while AstraZeneca and its research and development partner the University of Oxford will be entering its own final-stage clinical trials as of this month.

Moderna’s vaccine candidate is an mRNA vaccine, which is a technology that essentially provides instructions to healthy cells to produce antibodies to the coronavirus, without having to actually introduce any of the active or inactive virus itself. mRNA vaccines, while used in veterinary medicines, are relatively new technology and have not yet been approved for use in human patients, but they represent a number of the early vaccine attempts, because of their advantages in terms of speed of development and the lessened theoretical health risk they pose to people, including early trial participants.

#astrazeneca, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #drugs, #health, #johnson-johnson, #medicine, #moderna, #tc, #united-states, #vaccines

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Vicodin, ketamine, and caffeine: The ingredients of a good space pharmacy

As trusty as your grandparents' medicine cabinet from 1988 might be, you can't simply transport all this into space and safely assume results.

Enlarge / As trusty as your grandparents’ medicine cabinet from 1988 might be, you can’t simply transport all this into space and safely assume results. (credit: Barbara Alper/Getty Images)

In space, no one can hear you sneeze. But if an astronaut does catch the flu, it can be a major problem. With the nearest Walgreens several hundred kilometers away, every medication an astronaut could possibly need on a space mission must be packed beforehand. It makes designing a pharmacy for space extremely complicated.

On top of that, of course, space itself poses potential medical issues. That extreme environment is known to warp the human body, shift fluids, and shrink bones, among other things. But microgravity can also affect how medications are metabolized, potentially making drugs less effective or even toxic.

Yet, despite 60 years of humanity sending individuals to space, there has been alarmingly little research into how meds work differently off-planet. While self-medicating in space has been common, there aren’t great records of who took what, when they took it, and how it did or didn’t help. There is some evidence that certain meds can be less potent in space and radiation may even degrade medications—but really, experts just aren’t sure.

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#drugs, #features, #science, #space

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Where these 6 top VCs are investing in cannabis

The cannabis market was in the midst of a correction when the COVID-19 crisis hit and could emerge stronger than ever.

After a breakthrough period of growth, cannabis startups entered 2020 with depressed values and an uncertain future. Now, with millions sheltering in place, many companies are seeing unprecedented demand and growth opportunities as many states classified the industry as an essential business.

TechCrunch surveyed top investors focused on the cannabis market to gather their thoughts on current trends and opportunities. The results paint a stunning picture of an industry on the verge of breaking away from a market correction. Our six respondents described numerous opportunities for startups and investors, but cautioned that this atmosphere will not last long.


Three key takeaways

Cannabis is an essential business

Per the investors in our survey, most see the the pandemic as a turning point for cannabis thanks to increased demand and the industry’s designation as an essential business. Sean Stiefel, CEO of Navy Capital, notes that states will look to cannabis to help resolve budget deficits and said his firm is especially excited for legalization in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

“Cannabis went from illegal to essential in about two weeks flat,” said Matt Hawkins of Entourage Effect Capital. “Cannabis is now listed right alongside hospitals, doctors, grocery stores, gas stations and fire departments as an essential service.”

#artificial-intelligence, #cannabis, #cloud, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #drugs, #ecommerce, #extra-crunch, #investor-surveys, #payments, #personnel, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

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GreenLight Biosciences raises $17m to ramp mRNA production for COVID-19 vaccine candidate trials

One of the approaches therapeutics companies are taking to developing vaccines for COVID-19 relies on what’s called an mRNA (messenger RNA, which essentially provides cells with protein production instructions) vaccine, a relatively novel method that hasn’t yet resulted in a vaccine approved for human use (though approved mRNA vaccines do exist for veterinary treatment). Making mRNA is a fairly specialized affair, and one biotech startup that focuses on its production has raised $17 million in special purpose funding to ramp up its manufacturing capacity.

Boston-based GreenLight Biosciences raided the additional funding from a combination of new and existing investors, including Flu Lab, Xeraya Capital, and Board Capital, and will use the new funds to both expand its mRNA production capacity in order to support the creation of “billions of doses” of potential COVID-19 vaccines for use in trials and eventual deployment, should any candidates prove effective.

Meanwhile, GreenLight is also developing several different versions of its own mRNA-based vaccine candidates to potentially prevent individuals from contracting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to the COVID-19 infection. Some of the funding will also go towards its work in this area.

Various companies have spun up mRNA vaccine candidate development, and some have already entered into clinical trials, in response to the current global COVID-19 pandemic. These mRNA vaccines essentially work by providing a set of specific instructions to a person’s cells to produce proteins that are capable of blocking a virus, preventing it from getting a foothold in the body. It’s a different approach from traditional vaccine development, which involves using either deactivated, or small doses of activated actual virus to trigger an immune response in individuals.

mRNA vaccines have that advantage of being relatively safe because they contain no actual virus, with shorter pre-clinical development times as well, meaning the whole cycle from development to testing and deployment is shortened. That’s made them a popular area of focus and investment specifically to handle outbreaks and pandemics, but as mentioned, thus far none has been fully developed and approved for human treatemen.

This investment is a bet that mRNA vaccines not only prove effective in humans, but that they become a valuable and ongoing resource in curbing not only this pandemic, but other viral threats, including the existing standard influenza and others.

#biotech, #boston, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #drugs, #flu-lab, #health, #infection, #manufacturing, #recent-funding, #science, #startups, #tc, #vaccination, #vaccine, #vaccines, #virus

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Lucid Lane has developed a service to get patients off of pain meds and avoid addiction

Four years ago, Adnan Asar, the founder of the new addiction prevention service Lucid Lane, was enjoying a successful career working as the founding chief technology officer at Livongo Health. It was the serial senior tech executive’s most recent job after a long stint at Shutterfly and he was shepherding the company through the development of its suite of hardware and software for the management of chronic conditions.

But when Asar’s wife was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, he stepped away from the technology world to be with his family while she underwent treatment.

He did not know at the time that the decision would set him on the path to founding Lucid Lane. The company’s mission is to help give patients who have been prescribed medications to address pain and anxiety ways to wean themselves off those drugs and avoid addiction — and its purpose is born from the struggle Asar witnessed as his wife wrestled with how to stop taking the medication she was prescribed during her illness.

Asar’s wife isn’t alone. In 2018, there were roughly 168.2 million prescriptions for opioids written in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lucid Lane estimates that 50 million people are prescribed opioids and another 13 million are prescribed benzodiazepines each year either after surgery or in conjunction with cancer treatments — all without a plan for how to manage or taper the use of these highly addictive medications.

For Asar’s wife, it was the benzodiazepine prescribed as part of her cancer treatment that became an issue. “She was hit by very severe withdrawal symptoms and we didn’t know what was going on,” Asar said. When they consulted her physician he gave the couple two options — quitting cold turkey or remaining on the medication.

“My wife decided to go cold turkey,” Asar said. “It was really debilitating for the whole family.”

It took nine months of therapy and regular consultations with psychiatrists to help with tailoring medication dosages and tapering to get her off of the medication, said Asar. And that experience led to the launch of Lucid Lane.

“Our goal is to prevent and control medication and substance dependence,” Asar said.

The company’s telehealth solution is built on a proprietary treatment protocol meant to provide continuous daily support and interventions, along with proactive monitoring of a personalized treatment plan — all on an ongoing basis, said Asar. 

And the COVID-19 pandemic is only accelerating the need for telehealth services. “COVID-19 has made telehealth a mandatory service instead of a discretionary service,” said Asar. “There’s a surge in anxiety, depression, substance use and medication use. We’re seeing a surge of patients who are reaching out to us.”

Asar sees Lucid Lane’s competitors as companies like Lyra Health and Ginger, or point solutions building digital diagnostics to detect anxiety and depression. But unlike some companies that are launching to treat addiction or addictive behaviors, Asar sees his startup as preventing dependency and addiction.

“A lot of people are sliding into these addictions through something that happens at the doctor’s office,” said Asar. ” Our solution does not prescribe any of these medications.”

The company is working on clinical studies that are set to start at the Palo Alto VA hospital, and has raised $4 million in seed funding from investors including Battery Ventures and AME Cloud Ventures, the investment firm founded by Jerry Yang.

“We see great potential for Lucid Lane, as it has developed a scalable solution to one of the biggest problems facing society today,” said Battery general partner Dharmesh Thakker, in a statement. “Telehealth solutions have emerged as highly capable of addressing complex problems, and Lucid Lane has embraced remote care from its beginning. Its design enables care anytime, anywhere for patients in their moment of need. This can make a tremendous difference in the battle between recovery and relapse. We believe that it will help millions of people lead better lives.”

Joining Asar in the development of the company and its healthcare protocols are a seasoned team of health professionals, including Dr. Ahmed Zaafran, a board certified anesthesiologist at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and assistant professor of anesthesiology (affiliated) at Stanford University School of Medicine; and advisors like Dr. Vanila Singh, who was also previously chairperson of the HHS Task Force in conjunction with the DOD and the VA to address the opioid drug crisis; Dr. Carin Hagberg, the chair of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine of MD Anderson Cancer Center; and Sherif Zaafran, the president of the Texas Medical Board and chair of multiple national committees on pain management, including the subcommittee Taskforce on Pain Management Services for HHS, as well as the department’s Pain Clinical Pathways Committee.

“Lucid Lane provides a patient-centered solution that allows for the best clinical outcomes for patients after surgery and those bravely finishing chemotherapy,” said Dr. Singh, in a statement. “For the many patients who require short-term opioids and benzodiazepine medications, Lucid Lane’s treatment can limit the risk of prolonged dependence of these medications while also ensuring effective pain control with a resulting improved quality of life and functioning.”

#adnan-asar, #advisors, #ame-cloud-ventures, #battery-ventures, #cancer, #cancer-treatment, #centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #department-of-defense, #depression, #dharmesh-thakker, #drugs, #health, #illness, #jerry-yang, #livongo-health, #lucid-lane, #lyra-health, #pain, #pain-management, #physician, #santa-clara-valley-medical-center, #startups, #surgery, #tc, #united-states, #virginia

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SkyCell raises $62M for smart containers and analytics to transport pharmaceuticals

While human travel has become severely restricted in recent months, the movement of goods has remained a constant priority — and in some cases, has become even more urgent. Today, a startup out of Switzerland that builds hardware and operates a logistics network designed to transport one item in particular — pharmaceuticals — is announcing a significant round to fuel its growth.

SkyCell — a designer of “smart containters” powered by software to maintain constant conditions for drugs that need to be kept at strict temperatures, humidity levels, and levels of vibration, which are in turn used to transport pharmaceuticals around the globe on behalf of drug companies — is today announcing. that it has raised $62 million in growth funding.

This latest round is being led by healthcare investor MVM Partners, with participation also from family offices, a Swiss insurance company that declined to be named, as well as previous investors the Swiss Entrepreneurs Fund (managed by Credit Suisse and UBS), and the BCGE Bank’s growth fund.

The company was founded in 2012 Switzerland when Richard Ettl and Nico Ros were tasked to design a storage facility for one of the big Swiss pharma giants. The exec charged with overseeing the project brainstormed that the work they were putting in could potentially be applied to transportation containers, and thus SkyCell was born.

Today, Ettl (who is the CEO, while Ros is the CTO), said in an interview that the company now works with eight of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies and has been in validation trials with a further seven. These use SkyCell’s network of some 22,000 air freight pallets to move their products around the world.

The new capital will be used to expand that reach further, specifically in the U.S. and Asia, and to double its fleet to become the biggest pharmaceutical transportation company globally. With 30 of the 50 biggest-selling drugs in the world being temperature sensitive (and some generics for one of the biggest-selling, the arthritis medication Humira, now also coming out), this makes for a huge opportunity.

And unsurprisingly, several of SkyCell’s customers are working on COVID-19 medications, Ettl said, either to help ease symptoms or potentially to vaccinate or eradicate the virus, and so it’s standing at the ready to play a role in getting drugs to where they need to be.

“We are well positioned in case there is a vaccine developed. Out of the six pharma companies developing these right now, four of them are our customers, so there is a high likelihood we would transport something,” Ettl said.

For now, he said SkyCell has been involved in helping to transport “supportive” medications related to the outbreak, such as flu shots to make sure people are not falling ill with other viral infections at the same time.

SkyCell is not disclosing its valuation but we understand that it’s in the many hundreds of millions of dollars. The company had raised some $36 million in equity and debt before this, bringing the total outside funding now to $98 million.

In a market that’s estimated to be worth some $2.8 billion annually and growing at a rate of between 15% and 20% each year, there are a number of freight businesses that focus on the transportation of pharmaceuticals. They include not only freight companies but airlines themselves, which often buy in containers from third parties. (And for some more context, one of its competitors, Envirotainer, was acquired for over $1 billion in 2918; while another, CSafe, has raised significantly more funding.)

But there was virtually no innovation in the market, and most pharmaceutical companies factored in failure rates of between 4% and 12% depending on where the drugs were headed.

One key differentiator with SkyCell has been its containers, which are able to withstand temperatures as high as 60 degrees Celsius or as low as negative 10 degrees Celsius, and have tracking on them to better monitor their movements from A to B.

These came to the market at a time when incumbents were only able to (and some still are only able to) guarantee insulation for temperatures as high as 40 degrees, which was not as pressing an issue in the past as it is today, in part because of rising temperatures around the globe, and in part because of the growing sophistication of pharmaceuticals.

“We’ve found that the number of days where [one has to consider] temperature extremes has been going up,” Ettl said. “Last year, we had 30 days where it was warmer than 40 degrees Celsius across our network of countries.”

On top of the containers themselves, SkyCell has built a software platform that taps into the kind of big data analytics that are now part and parcel of how modern companies in the logistics industry work today, in order to optimise movement and best routing for packages.

The conditions it considers include not only the obvious ones around temperature, humidity and vibration, but distance and time of travel, as well as overall carbon emissions. SkyCell claims that its failure rate comes out at less than 0.1%, with CO2 emissions reduced by almost half on a typical shipment.

Together, the hardware and software are covered by some 100 patents, the company says.

#drugs, #enterprise, #europe, #funding, #health, #logistics, #pharmaceuticals, #recent-funding, #skycell, #startups, #tc, #transportation

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Price Technologies adds product availability feature for items experiencing COVID-19 shortages

Price Technologies, the operator of the comparison shopping website Price.com and its related browser extension, is adding a feature to show product availability for a few essential items that have had supply issues caused by the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.

Products like aspirin, acetaminophen, facial tissues, hand sanitizer, ibuprofen, rice, soap, soup, toilet paper and other items are going to be shown on the company’s website with their availability at online vendors.

“We’ve been tracking how essential COVID-19 supplies are becoming difficult to find online,” the company wrote in a blogpost. “Therefore, we are now updating the product availability in real-time for these essential items. We are launching an early version of this feature and plan to continue to expand/refine this feature’s functionality in the following weeks.”

Launched in 2016, Price.com is somewhat of a competitor to services like Honey, the online discount shopping service acquired by PayPal last year.

According to Crunchbase, the company’s backed by a slew of early-stage investors, including Dave McClure, (the founder of 500 Startups), Plug and Play Ventures, Social Capital and VentureSouq.

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #drugs, #ecommerce, #medicine, #tc, #united-states

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FDA approves the emergency use of chloroquine for COVID-19

Image of a person's hands holding pill packaging.

Enlarge / Medical staff at the IHU Mediterranee Infection Institute in Marseille shows packets of a Nivaquine (tablets containing chloroquine) and Plaqueril (tablets containing hydroxychloroquine) on February 26, 2020,. (credit: Gerard Julien/Getty Images)

On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration issued an Emergency Use Authorization that will allow patients suffering from COVID-19 to be treated using drugs without clear evidence of the drugs’ efficacy. The move comes after President Donald Trump has touted the drugs’ potential several times on the basis of tiny, anecdotal trials. There have also been reports of hoarding of the drugs, which are needed by people with some autoimmune disorders.

Potential or hype?

The drugs in question are relatives of chloroquine, specifically chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate. Originally developed as an antimalarial, chloroquine has a variety of effects, including the ability to reduce immune activity. That has made it useful for the treatment of autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Given its multiple effects, it’s not surprising that the drug also has a variety of side effects, the most significant probably being a slowing of the heart’s rhythm that can potentially lead to fatal complications. (Technically, the drug extends the QT interval.)

What does any of this have to do with a coronavirus? As we discussed when exploring potential treatments for SARS-CoV-2, chloroquine can also alter the pH of the compartment in which some viruses are brought into the cell. This can interfere with the process of depositing the virus’ genome inside the cell and thus block the virus’ ability to reproduce. Experiments in cultured cells infected by SARS-CoV-2 indicated that chloroquine treatments can keep the virus from spreading within the culture.

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#chloroquine, #covid-19, #drugs, #healthcare, #medicine, #pandemic, #policy, #sars-cov-2, #science

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Cell and gene therapy startup ElevateBio raises $170 million

While economic conditions and the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic may not make for the best atmosphere for raising funding, some companies are still announcing round closures with significant money committed. Cambridge-based ElevateBio, for instance, revealed a $170 million Series B funding on Monday, with participation from new investors The Invus Group, Surveyor Capital, EDBI, and Vertex Ventures, along with existing investors F2 Ventures, MPM Capital, EcoR1 Capital, Redmile Group and Samsara BioCapital.

ElevateBio, which was officially launched to the public less than a year ago, specializes in development of new types of cellular and genetic therapies, and operates by the creation of new companies under its portfolio each dedicated to the development and manufacturing of a specific type of therapeutic approach. This funding brings the total raised by ElevateBio to over $300 million, on top of a $150 million Series A round that the company announced last year, led by Swiss investment bank UBS’ Oncology Impact Fund.

The biotech company has ramped up quickly, nearing completion of a 140,000 square foot facilitating in Massachusetts to focus on R&D. It also launched a company called AlloVir that’s working on T-cell immunotherapy for combating viruses that specifically arise stem cell transplantations, and is already in the later stages of clinical trials. Finally, it launched another company called HighPassBio, which is also aimed at helping treat stem cell-related diseases using T-cell therapies, in this case specifically around the potential relapse of leukaemia following a transplant.

As you might expect, ElevateBio is also turning the attention of some of its efforts towards research focused on mitigating the impact of COVID-19; specifically, its AlloVir subsidiary has expanding an existing research agreement in place with the Baylor College of Medicine to work on developing a type of T-cell therapy that can help protect patients with conditions that compromise their immune systems and put them at increased risk for COVID-19.

#biology, #biotech, #biotechnology, #cambridge, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #drugs, #edbi, #health, #invus-group, #life-sciences, #manufacturing, #massachusetts, #pharma, #recent-funding, #science, #startups, #stem-cell, #tc, #vertex-ventures

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Doctors hoard unproven COVID-19 meds by writing prescriptions for selves, families

A pharmacy technician grabs a bottle of drugs off a shelf at the central pharmacy of Intermountain Heathcare on September 10, 2018 in Midvale, UT.

Enlarge / A pharmacy technician grabs a bottle of drugs off a shelf at the central pharmacy of Intermountain Heathcare on September 10, 2018 in Midvale, UT. (credit: Getty | George Frey)

A nationwide shortage of two drugs touted as possible treatments for the coronavirus is being driven in part by doctors inappropriately prescribing the medicines for family, friends, and themselves, according to pharmacists and state regulators.

“It’s disgraceful, is what it is,” said Garth Reynolds, executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association, which started getting calls and emails Saturday from members saying they were receiving questionable prescriptions. “And completely selfish.”

Demand for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine surged over the past several days as President Donald Trump promoted them as possible treatments for the coronavirus and online forums buzzed with excitement over a small study suggesting the combination of hydroxychloroquine and a commonly used antibiotic could be effective in treating COVID-19.

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#covid-19, #drugs, #policy, #science, #trump

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Non-profit launches COVID-19 treatment and vaccine tracker with daily updates

There are a lot of global efforts underway to develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, including repurposing of existing drugs approved for use in treating other forms of coronavirus and respiratory diseases. Many of these efforts are just entering into the formal clinical study phase, which will be required before any treatment is certified for widespread use in patients diagnosed with the illness. Vaccines are still likely at least a year out from approvals, though some have already entered into clinical human trials at unprecedented speed owing to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic.

It’s definitely a challenge to keep up with all the existing efforts to pursue effective treatments and develop vaccines, but public health non-profit the Milken Institute has a new resource that aims to keep track of at least the efforts from leading research institutions and drug makers. Its COVID-19 treatment and vaccine tracker currently offers a list of nearly 60 treatments, as well as 43 vaccines in development.

This list details the type of treatment or vaccine being studied or developed, as well as their FDA-approved status (for other conditions – none have been approved specifically for treating COVID-19 to date). They also indicate who is doing the drug development or research, and what stage the research project is at (either pre-clinical or clinical). The table lists the source of funding, if available, as well as the anticipated timetable for the phases of the project if known. It provides sourcing for each, as well, including credible media sources, journals and the World Health Organization.

This kind of tracker is a good resource for anyone looking to keep tabs on the ongoing work that people are doing to take on COVID-19, though it’s a high-level view that is probably of most interest to other ongoing projects, as well as health and research professionals who might be able to assist in the development of these solutions, or to collaborate with partners. The Milken Institute says that it’s going to be updating the tracker daily at noon eastern with any additional fresh info from reliable sources.

As mentioned, even vaccines that are already in development, like the mRNA-based immune therapy that began human trials last week in the U.S., will take many months to come to market, and they still have to demonstrate their effectiveness, too. In the meantime, people should do everything they can to isolate and remain indoors in order to help buy time for the healthcare system to develop treatments that can mitigate the impact of the disease, and eventually, ways to introduce immunity in order to block its transmission.

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #drug-development, #drugs, #fda, #health, #illness, #tc, #vaccination, #vaccine, #vaccines, #world-health-organization

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