InnovationRx: Facebook Ads And Patient Data; Plus, Covid And Neurological Damage


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A study published this week in the data science journal Patterns suggests some digital health companies may be funneling sensitive patient data to Facebook to help target advertisements. Forbes senior writer Alexandra Levine reports that while the scale of the study was small – it tracked the online activity of 10 participants active in online cancer communities – it points to bigger issues around data-sharing trends in digital health and who is ultimately responsible for patient privacy, with three of the five companies analyzed going against their own privacy policies by sharing this information. Andrea Downing, cofounder of the Light Collective, a research group focused on online privacy issues that conducted the study, said this data gathering and algorithms for advertising are “one of the biggest threats to online patient communities,” as it can open them up to misinformation and privacy breaches.

Dr. Iman Abuzeid Leads Incredible Health To Unicorn Status With $80 Million Series B

Iman Abuzeid, cofounder and CEO, Incredible Health.

Incredible Health

Three years into the Covid-19 pandemic, the American healthcare system continues to face a critical shortage of nurses: More than one-third of the nation’s hospitals have a nurse vacancy rate that’s higher than 10%, and an additional 500,000 RNs are expected to retire by the end of this year. Incredible Health, founded by Iman Abuzeid and Rome Portlock in 2017, helps match nurses to open jobs. The funding brings its valuation to $1.65 billion, making CEO Abuzeid one of only a handful of Black female founders to run a company valued at more than a billion dollars. Read more here.

Deals Of The Week

AI Funding: Abridge, a startup using artificial intelligence to securely transcribe medical appointments, has raised a $12.5 million Series A-1 round led by Wittington Ventures. The company, which launched in 2020, says its tech has been used by 2,000 clinicians=and 200,000 patients.

Inclusive Care: Violet, a medical education startup that provides training in diversity, equity and inclusion for clinicians, has raised $5.3M in seed funding. The seed round was led by SemperVirens Northwell Holdings, the venture arm of Northwell Health.

Circular Deal: Merck has signed a collaboration deal with biotech company Orna Therapeutics to use its circular RNA technology to develop vaccines and therapeutics. The agreement has Merck giving Orna a $150 million upfront payment, up to $3.5 billion in milestone payments and eventual royalties for any approved medicine.

Natural Born Medicines: Senda Biosciences, which is developing drugs derived from naturally-forming nanoparticles in plants and animals, announced it has raised a $123 million series C round, bringing the company’s total funding to $266 million.


Retailers including Best Buy, CVS and Walgreens are gearing up to sell over-the-counter hearing aids later this year, after the FDA released new guidance this week opening up what had previously been a prescription-only market.

President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes climate, healthcare and tax changes, into law this week – a major win for the administration’s domestic agenda. .

Gallup poll finds three in five Americans support stricter regulations on e-cigarettes a month after the FDA moved to ban Juul from the market.

A judge ruled this week Georgia’s six-week abortion ban will remain in effect as court challenge moves forward. Here’s an overview of where other state lawsuits stand.

Coronavirus Updates

Since the beginning of the pandemic, one symptom of Covid has stood out as being unusual: a significant percentage of people report a loss of smell. The loss can be a symptom of greater neurological damage, which is still one of the things we know the least about in terms of Covid’s impact. Two new studies published in the past week, however, shine some light on the subject.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics finds that nearly 10% of children who are hospitalized for Covid experience complications affecting their brains. These complications include seizures, brain abscesses, ischemic stroke and other forms of brain damage. “The complications are almost uniformly associated with worse outcomes and can be life-altering conditions,” one of the authors of the study said.

Another piece of research published Wednesday in The Lancet found that unlike some other Covid complications like risk of heart disease or diabetes, the risk of neurological damage does not dissipate over time. The researchers here analyzed health records from nearly 1.3 million people who’d been diagnosed with Covid over a two-year period and found that those patients had increased risk of developing conditions like dementia, seizures or epilepsy, brain fog and psychotic disorders like schizophrenia compared to people who had other respiratory infections. These risks became elevated during both the delta wave and the omicron wave.

Given the magnitude of the number of people who’ve been infected with Covid, even a slightly elevated risk of these complications means that hospitals and healthcare systems will have to deal with potentially hundreds of thousands or even millions more patients for these conditions as time goes on.

An HIV Vaccine May Be Closer Than Ever — Thanks, In Part, To Covid-19

Future Publishing via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Dave Wessner reports from the 24th International AIDS Conference, where researchers shared ways that Covid vaccine development might help the development of a vaccine for AIDS. Read more here.

Other Coronavirus News

The effectiveness of Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine against infection in teens fades rapidly in the weeks after vaccination, according to real-world data, but it still provides significant protection against severe illness and death.

The U.K. has authorized Moderna’s Covid vaccine that targets two different variants of the virus, a world first as pharma firms adapt to a changed viral landscape and countries prepare to launch fall booster campaigns.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky announced Wednesday she will make major modifications to the agency’s structure, including staffing changes and efforts to improve public messaging, after she said the agency failed to adequately respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some 56% of a sample of people who tested positive for Covid-19 during the winter omicron surge were not aware they were infected, a new study found, adding to concerns that low levels of virus detection helps fuel the spread of the highly contagious variant.

Across Forbes

Next Billion Dollar Startups 2022

State Fairs Hope To Put Disease And Deficits Behind Them In Their First Full-Throttle Season Since Covid

LinkedIn Profiles Indicate 300 Current TikTok And ByteDance Employees Used To Work For Chinese State Media—And Some Still Do

What Else We are Reading

The Forgotten Virus: Zika Families and Researchers Struggle for Support (New York Times)

Police Used a Baby’s DNA to Investigate Its Father for a Crime (Wired)

New Hahn-era texts show the extent of the Trump White House’s involvement in vaccine EUA process (Endpoints News)

Life Sciences, Forbes – Healthcare

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