John Halamka heading to Mayo Clinic, Google snipes Facebook health project manager and more digital health hires

Also: Cognoa announces new CFO; Pfizer vets find new roles at Aetion; Senate HELP Committee votes FDA commissioner nominee forward.
By Dave Muoio
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Dr. John Halamka, a longtime CIO, executive director and professor tied to Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center, will be joining the Mayo Clinic on January 1 as the new president of its Mayo Clinic Platform — a digital health project that will deploy “artificial intelligence, the internet of things and an ecosystem of partners,” he wrote in a blog post announcing the move. Halamka will be heading to Minnesota after nearly 25 years in the Boston area, although he’s also traveled his fair share to serve as an adviser to startups and accelerators worldwide.

"Launching a pilot can take six months just to work through approval processes," said Halamka. "Sometimes academic medical centers can take as long as 18 months to formalize a proof of concept project. What if a platform of technology, policies and people were able to radically shorten the time to evaluate emerging companies and created an 'innovation factory' for collaboration? That's how I think about the Mayo Clinic Platform opportunity.”


Google has scooped up Hema Budaraju, a product management director at Facebook immersed in the social media company’s blood donations and health support groups projects, Business Insider first reported. It isn’t clear that her new gig will be similarly focused on healthcare — she wrote on LinkedIn that the position will involve “social and environmental impact” efforts that use the Google Maps platform, such as crisis response and urban pollution.

And on the topic of Google, reports began circulating yesterday that Google CEO Sundar Pichai will be stepping into the chief executive position of Alphabet as well. The news comes with word that Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping back from their positions at the tech company’s head, although they will keep their role on the Alphabet board of directors and still maintain its majority votes.


Aetion, a New York City-based maker of an analytics platform to assess real-world evidence, has picked up two former Pfizer executives: Julie Schiffman, who will serve as SVP of science engagement, and Nicolle Gatto, as SVP of science.

Schiffman held the role of VP of global business analytics during her time at the pharmaceutical company, while Gatto was its senior director and group head of epidemiology.


Pediatric development toolmaker Cognoa announced this week that it has tapped James H. Welch as its new CFO. Welch’s 20 years in biotech were most recently defined by his time at Eiger BioPharmaceuticals, where he also served as CFO as the company underwent a $200 million-plus IPO. At Cognoa, he will be overseeing the startup’s financial planning, operations and investor relations.

“Jim’s experience and expertise scaling high-growth biotech companies make him the ideal CFO for Cognoa as we look to gain FDA clearance and commercialize our pipeline of prescription digital therapeutics,” Brent Vaughan, cofounder and CEO of Cognoa, said in a statement.


Yesterday saw the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee send the nomination of Dr. Stephen Hahn as next FDA commissioner ahead to the full Senate in an 18 to 5 vote. Hahn is a radiation and medical oncologist trained in internal medicine at UCSF and spent time at the National Cancer Institute and University of Pennsylvania.

Before his role as chief medical officer at MD Anderson, he served as the organization’s COO as well as head of the radiation oncology division.


Medication access and transparency technology company RxSense has appointed two new CTOs for its enterprise and consumer divisions. For the former, Google and Dropbox veteran Vishal Arora will head engineering of the company’s pharmacy benefits administration products, while Nitin Shingate, from Overstock, will hold similar responsibilities for the SingleCare and FamilyWize prescription savings platforms.

“Nitin and Vishal bring tremendous experience and the passion for innovation that comes from building engineering teams at fast-growing organizations,” Rick Bates, cofounder and CEO of RxSense, said in a statement. “As we continue to focus on developing industry-leading solutions to improve healthcare transparency and access to affordable medications, we’re looking forward to their contributions to help fuel innovation and the next chapter of our company’s growth.”