By Steve Dickman, CEO, CBT Advisors
A note to my readers: As of this week, I have been made a contributor to Forbes and many of my pieces will appear there. Thanks for your continued readership and please keep the comments and questions coming on Forbes, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Although replacing pharmaceuticals with apps still sounds like science fiction, it will be just a few years before getting medical treatment by downloading an app from the Apple App Store or from Google Play will begin to seem routine. All the pieces are coming together: startups are working on real medical challenges, apps are showing clinical utility and a path is emerging to approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The only things missing at this point are definitive proof and, oh yes, venture money. At a panel that I put together at Biotech Showcase in San Francisco last month (panel video here), three startups showed how they are tackling both the lack of funds as well as some real health issues: smoking cessation, attention deficit disorders and migraine. It is instructive that each of these companies sees peer-reviewed, controlled clinical trials as a must. A consensus seems to be emerging that in order to occupy the more clinically useful – and more highly remunerated – realm of “apps-as-drugs,” the winners will have to do much more than just monitoring.
To read the rest of my post and see which companies are emerging as leaders in the apps-as-drugs field, click the link or copy-paste it:
by Steven Dickman, CEO, CBT Advisors
Seeing the human being as a “superorganism” composed primarily of freeloading or symbiotic bacteria and other parasites and designing products accordingly – that is the basis for a new startup with the alluring name of Libra Biosciences being incubated by PureTech Ventures in Boston.
Daphne Zohar, top Boston innovator
News of Libra began to come out in a piece in yesterday’s (Oct. 4, 2010) Boston Globe citing PureTech managing partner Daphne Zohar as one of Boston’s top 15 innovators. Little else is publicly available about the startup except a one-page web site stating that the company will be active in diagnostics and consumer products as well as therapeutics. Disease areas will include developmental, immunological and epithelial disorders.
The idea of humans and other eukaryotes as walking sacs of bacteria is not new. It was raised elegantly by Lewis Thomas in his seminal and delightful 1978 book Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher.
Nor would this be the first time someone tried to apply this concept to predictive disease modeling – witness this paper from Nicholson et al. in Nature Biotech in 2004 exploring applications of “omics” to human-residing bacteria. But this appears to be the first time that commercial activity has coalesced around this interesting field of science, likely driven by advances in high-speed genetic sequencing. (The latest presentation we’ve seen from BGI – formerly Beijing Genomics Institute – reports that BGI alone will have increased to 5 TB of genome sequenced per day – that’s 1500 human genomes – by the end of 2010, up from 100 GB a day at the end of 2009.) There have been some interesting publications pointing to links between the nature of gut bacteria in individuals and their weight. According to these studies, as reported in the Los Angeles Times in June of this year, the more efficient the gut bacteria are at processing food, the more overweight the hosts are. We prefer the inefficient ones!
Except for the brief mention in the Globe today, Libra is not talking to the media just yet. But this interesting piece of startup news confirms PureTech’s role – alongside Third Rock Ventures and just a handful of other Boston-based firms – as one of the few key bridges across the current yawning gap separating creative academic science and fundable biotech companies.
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