Anthem details new digital health incubator, Ancestry stops health testing and more digital health briefs

Also: NIH moves forward with physIQ's COVID digital biomarkers; Tyto Care adds pulse oximeter.
By Dave Muoio and Laura Lovett
02:24 pm
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Ancestry Health

Digital incubator open for business. Anthem has kicked off a new incubator for digital health companies that it says will provide opportunities for funding, mentorship, path-to-market guidance and access to the payer's substantial body of certified de-identified data.

Called the Anthem Digital Incubator, this program will be offering invitations to digital health entrepreneurs and recently formed companies. In addition, the incubator will play a role in the company's Anthem.AI developer community, which will host broader educational series, guest-speaker sessions and challenge competitions (the rewards for which can include funding or residency at the incubator).


Change of direction. Ancestry.com's health testing service are coming to a halt, according to a new report from Bloomberg. In October of 2019 the consumer genomic company announced that it was launching AncestryHealth. The tool was designed to give customers insights about the health risks associated with their genes and family history. According to the Bloomberg report, the move to end health services will result in cutting 77 jobs.

It's been a tough few years for consumer genomics companies. In January of 2019, 23andMe announced it was cutting 100 jobs amid slowing demand.


Remote care. Tyto Care is adding to its modular device that enables remote exams a new Pulse Oximeter (SpO2) medical device. The tech is able to take blood oxygen saturation levels and heart rate. Like Tyto's other products the system is designed to be used at home during remote exams.

“We’re excited to announce the release of our Pulse Oximeter, providing patients with more tests that bring the clinic directly to them,” Dedi Gilad, CEO and cofounder of Tyto Care, said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic thrust telehealth into the spotlight, and we are constantly enhancing the TytoCare platform to ensure users have access to the most comprehensive telehealth solution available. The pandemic will eventually be behind us, yet telehealth will remain a key component in the future of healthcare, providing patients with the best possible remote care and clinicians with actionable insights into their patients’ health.”     

Varying results. A federal study compared Abbott's rapid COVID-19 testing product BinaxNOW to real-time PCR testing and found that the former only had a sensitivity rate of 35.8% when tested on asymptomatic patients and 64.2% in symptomatic carriers. Researchers did report that specificity on the Abbott test was high.

The study also noted that the sensitive was higher for culture-positive specimens (92.6% and 78.6% for symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.)


NIH moves forward with physIQ's COVID-19 digital biomarkers. physIQ announced this week that the National Institutes of Health have agreed to enter the second phase of ongoing project to develop digital biomarkers of COVID-19. The contract was initially announced back in September, and with this week's decision brings its total value to $6.6 million.

The project seeks to build an early warning system able to anticipate rapid decline in COVID-19 patients' conditions by using AI and continuous multi-parameter vital signs (as opposed to point measurements, such as temperature or Sp02 alone). The company said that it had enrolled and was monitoring 400 patients in the first phase of the study, and it anticipates that the second phase will start later this month and enroll 1,200 patients to validate the novel digital biomarkers.

“Using Phase I data, we developed and tested a preliminary digital biomarker using state of the art machine learning algorithms that take advantage of our extensive library of wearable biosensor analytics as inputs,” Stephan Wegerich, physIQ’s chief science officer, said in a statement. “Furthermore, we were able to demonstrate performance levels that far exceeded our target performance criterion.  We are looking forward to further validation in Phase II.”


Grant money fuels MA startup ecosystem. Three Massachusetts health tech startups have been awarded grants through the Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI) at MassTech's Digital Health Sandbox program. The grants total $105,500, and are being provided to sandbox facilities, where the startups will work hands-on to evaluate their offerings in real-world settings and advance their product's life cycle, according to the announcement.

The grants and their recipients include:

  • $25,000 for TechSpring @ Baystate Health, where Keva Health will be working to pilot its chronic respiratory illness remote monitoring platform.
  • $43,750 to Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where Dynocardia will optimize the design of its prototype continuous, stand-alone, non-invasive blood pressure monitor.
  • $37,500 for UMass Medical School, which will help caresyntax test and validate its data-driven surgical safety project.

“These three projects are a testament to the creativity and solution driven mentality we know so well in the Massachusetts innovation economy,” Laurance Stuntz, director of MeHI, said in a statement. “Given the COVID-19 public health crisis, we are thrilled to leverage this funding and the Massachusetts Digital Health Sandbox Network to support these unique digital health projects that all offer the promise of better, safer and more efficient remote care.”

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