IBM Watson cuts back on drug discovery, Redox's $33M Series C and more digital health news briefs

Also: Sensor system monitors Parkinson's medication fluctions; Babylon Health ramps up North America hires.
By Dave Muoio
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Door closes on drug discovery. IBM is tapering off sales of its Watson for Drug Discovery product in favor of other healthcare offerings using the AI technology, STAT reported this morning. The decision was made in response to weak demand and purchases from customers.

"We are focusing our resources within Watson Health to double down on the adjacent field of clinical development where we see an even greater market need for our data and AI capabilities,” IBM said in a statement provided to STAT.

Redox's new raise. Redox, a Madison, Wisconsin-based API company focused on data interoperability for health app and other health IT services, has raised $33 million in a Series C funding round led by Battery Ventures. The round, which also featured .406 Ventures, RRE Ventures and Intermountain Ventures, will help the company expand its reach and improve its user experience, according to the company.

“Redox’s success is built on the success of our customers, the most innovative software solutions and healthcare organizations in the market today,” Luke Bonney, Redox’s cofounder and CEO, said in a statement. “We have a saying at Redox: ‘We are all patients.’ This informs our perspective about what we do as we build the infrastructure our customers rely on every day. We’re grateful to be in a position to help solve one of healthcare’s thorniest challenges.”

AI program prevents diabetes. A rollout of Lark Health’s AI-based diabetes prevention program among 360 adults aged an average of 58 years achieved an average weight loss of 4.4 kg, or an average 4.3% drop in participants’ body weight. As detailed in a white paper from the company, the program also saw 27.5% of its participants drop at least one BMI category over the course of 12 months.

“Older adults, especially the Medicare population (aged 65 and older), are affected by higher prevalence of prediabetes and diabetes,” the paper’s authors wrote. “With age, these conditions become more costly and can significantly decrease productivity and quality of life. This study … demonstrates that Lark is a scalable and effective solution for engaging and achieving long-term, clinically significant weight loss in older adults.”

Babylon looks to the US. Triage chatbot maker Babylon Health is gearing up to expand its staff in the US and Canada, the Telegraph reported earlier this week. The company is seeking to fill 29 new positions in these countries, and has already hired 16 since the beginning of the year. The company only began its hiring in these regions last year.

“[Babylon is] building a significant presence in North America to support our existing partnerships and launch our localized technology specifically for the US market,” a spokesperson for the company told the Telegraph.

Tracking Parkinson's disease. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) College of Engineering and Computer Science are employing sensors and an algorithm to measure motor fluctuations in Parkinson’s disease patients. Detailed in Medical Engineering and Physics, the team tested their setup on patients performing seven normal activities, and found the system to be roughly 90% accurate, 94% sensitive, and 85% specific when detecting Parkinson’s disease medication responses.

"Our approach is novel because it is customized to each patient rather than a 'one-size-fits-all' approach and can continuously detect and report medication ON and OFF states as patients perform different daily routine activities," Behnaz Ghoraani, senior author of the paper and an assistant professor at FAU, said in a statement. "Once the algorithm is trained, it can readily be used as a passive system to monitor medication fluctuations without relying on patient or physician engagement.”

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