BIO Congratulates 2018 George Washington Carver and Rosalind Franklin Award Recipients

Each year at the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology, BIO recognizes innovators in the field of industrial biotechnology with the George Washington Carver Award for Innovation in Industrial Biotechnology and Agriculture and the Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology and Agriculture. This year BIO congratulates Dr. Sang Yup Lee, distinguished professor and dean at the KAIST Institute in South Korea, and Krysta Harden, vice president of external affairs and chief sustainability officer at Corteva AgriscienceTM (a division of DowDuPont), for winning the George Washington Carver and Rosalind Franklin Awards, respectively.

George Washington Carver Award for Innovation in Industrial Biotechnology and Agriculture

The annual George Washington Carver Award, sponsored by the Iowa Biotechnology Association, recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to building the biobased economy by applying industrial biotechnology to create environmentally sustainable products. It serves as a lasting memorial to the original vision of George Washington Carver, who, over a century ago, pioneered biobased products, materials and energy derived from renewable agricultural feedstocks. Industrial biotechnology is the modern-day equivalent of Carver’s vision.

Dr. Sang Yup Lee will be recognized as the 11th winner of the Carver Award during a plenary session at the 2018 BIO World Congress in Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 18. A pioneer in his own right, Dr. Lee is a leader in the establishment of systems metabolic engineering technology to develop microbial bioprocesses for the sustainable and environment-friendly production of chemicals, fuels and materials from non-food renewable biomass. Through his work, Dr. Lee has gained countless recognitions including being one of only 13 people in the world elected as a foreign member of both the National Academy of Sciences USA and the National Academy of Engineering USA.

Dr. Lee has actively promoted the importance of industrial biotechnology through engagement with the public, policymakers and decision makers around the world. Dr. Lee has published more than 575 peer-reviewed papers, contributed to 82 books and holds 636 patents.

As BIO’s Executive Vice President of Industrial and Environment Brent Erickson said: “Dr. Sang Yup Lee has advanced the biobased economy by developing innovative products and processes that are sustainable and environmentally friendly…. His contributions to the advancement of the industry are a continuation of the legacy left behind by George Washington Carver.”

“The credit all goes to my research team who has worked together for the past few decades,” said Dr. Lee when learning of the honor. “Industrial biotechnology is becoming increasingly important to help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. We should continue to work together to advance the field and establish a solid foundation for the sustainable future.”

Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology and Agriculture 

The annual Rosalind Franklin Award, sponsored by the Rosalind Franklin Society, will be presented at the same plenary session on Wednesday, July 18, at the 2018 BIO World Congress to Corteva Agriscience’s Vice President of External Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer Krysta Harden.

Named after former King’s College research associate Rosalind Franklin, the award is sponsored by the Rosalind Franklin Society, whose goal is to support and showcase the careers of eminent women in science. While working as a research associate in London, Rosalind Franklin conceived and captured Photograph 51 of the “B” form of DNA. Her photograph, acquired from a machine Dr. Franklin herself refined, revealed the structure of DNA, making it the single most important advance of modern biology. Though sometimes overlooked, Rosalind Franklin’s critical work and discovery in the field has allowed the biotechnology industry to become what it is today.

Krysta Harden currently leads Corteva Agriscience’s public policy and government affairs efforts, in addition to its sustainability, philanthropy, product stewardship and global regulatory activities. Both in her current role and in her former position as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Ms. Harden has been a tireless advocate for bringing new technology and innovation to industrial biotechnology and agriculture, as well as a passionate leader in encouraging women to seek careers in these burgeoning sectors. During her time at USDA, Ms. Harden helped shape food and agriculture policy and founded the agency’s Women in Agriculture Mentoring Program, which supports and engages women across all areas of agriculture and fosters professional partnerships between women with shared goals.

“Krysta was a leader when she worked in Congress and the federal government and she continues to be a leader in the private sector,” said Erickson. “The combination of her advocacy in biotechnology innovation and promotion of women in the field makes her the perfect recipient for an award that aims to honor the distinguished women that work in science.”

“I am humbled to receive such a prestigious award,” said Krysta Harden. “As an advocate for both biotechnology and women in science, it is an honor to receive the Rosalind Franklin award. Women leaders continue to play an increasingly pivotal role in science fields. From the farm to the lab to the boardroom, there are many possibilities for women in science and we must continue to open doors for them.”

Following the award ceremonies, both recipients will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Brent Erickson on Wednesday, July 18 from 11:30 AM – 1 PM to discuss how industrial biotechnology has changed over the last 15 years and highlight promising opportunities for growth in the future.

For more information about the plenary session and other programming, view the program schedule here. For more information about this year’s BIO World Congress, including information about past year’s award winners, click here.

And if you haven’t done so yet, be sure to register to attend the 2018 BIO World Congress in Philadelphia, July 16-19, 2018.

Oncora Medical and MD Anderson embark on personalized radiation oncology study

 

Philadelphia-based clinical decision support startup Oncora Medical is collaborating with University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in a study to help radiation oncologists develop personalized treatment plans with the goal of improving outcomes, according to a news release. The Phase 1 study will focus on data from 2,000 breast cancer patients and last three to nine months.

Oncora’s Precision Radiation Oncology Platform will analyze data from MD Anderson’s electronic medical record system, tumor registry, radiation therapy planning system, and Brocade — a Web-based clinical documentation tool for medical records developed by MD Anderson Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology, Dr. Benjamin Smith.

Oncora will be tasked with creating interoperability between its Precision Radiation Oncology Platform and Brocade to explore the potential value of a combined product, the release said.

“Through this alliance, we hope to improve workflows and processes for radiation oncologists and simultaneously give radiation oncologists access to better information to support real-time, precision medical decision making,” Smith said in the release.

Although most people think of precision medicine as targeted therapy, Lindsay noted that the company defines precision medicine as the “right treatment for the right patient at the right time” and wants to expand the conventionally accepted definition beyond drugs and diagnostics.

The study was a year in the making and will be Oncora’s biggest endeavor to date, Lindsay said.

“Our software needs to access data across multiple software systems at a center that treats nearly 10,000 patients per year. That is part of the reason why we spent so long planning for the partnership. We want everything to go smoothly and we want to deliver MD Anderson a seamlessly integrated product.”

The study will also assess physician utilization and quality of the company’s predictive modeling efforts. But the ultimate criteria for success will be the deployment of a “functioning product” at MD Anderson, noted Lindsay.

The second phase of the of the collaboration with MD Anderson will expand the study to all cancer types treated with radiation.

One of the challenges in healthcare is de-siloing data, particularly for clinical decision support. When it comes to cancer treatment, radiation oncology data risks being siloed in different hospital software systems, which makes it tough to collect and analyze. Oncora Medical views its approach as a way to make predictive analytics and precision radiation oncology succeed.

Photo: Jirsak, Getty Images

Jefferson Health taps Teladoc for telehealth needs

Purchase, New York-based Teladoc is making moves in the telehealth space.

Jefferson Health in Philadelphia recently went live on Teladoc’s telehealth platform.

What prompted Jefferson Health to handpick Teladoc as opposed to another vendor? “Many of the other vendors were not designed the way Teladoc was,” Dr. Judd Hollander, the associate dean for strategic health initiatives at Thomas Jefferson University’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College, told MedCity in a phone interview. Instead, it was designed with health systems in mind, he pointed out. “The advantage is they have a platform that does what we need to do,” Hollander said.

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Dr. Alan Roga, president of Teladoc’s provider market, echoed that sentiment. “We understand the unique needs of hospitals and health systems and have developed a purpose-built telehealth solution specifically for them,” he said in a statement.

The Teladoc system is now part of Jefferson Health’s existing telehealth program, JeffConnect. But the new go-live doesn’t mean JeffConnect has disintegrated.

“JeffConnect still exists. It’s the brand of our program,” Hollander said. “We’ve changed nothing about JeffConnect. We’ve added the Teladoc platform, which is branded as JeffConnect, to that.”

JeffConnect, which includes inpatient care, outpatient care and transitions in care, enables patients to connect with physicians via phone, computer or tablet. Using JeffConnect, patients can see a physician in a variety of different ways. They can connect with their physicians 24/7 through on-demand visits. Patients can also schedule video visits or use the remote second opinion option to get additional thoughts on their care.

Whereas other hospitals and health systems outsource some of their telehealth visits to other providers, Jefferson Health does not. That’s what sets JeffConnect apart — patients always see a Jefferson Health physician, Hollander said. “That’s really unique about JeffConnect,” he said. “We believe our patients want to know that when you call Jefferson, you get Jefferson. We’re able to do that on this platform.”

And JeffConnect’s services aren’t limited to a certain physician specialty. “If you have an appointment, you can have it with every type of specialty at Jefferson,” Hollander said.

Though the price of a JeffConnect visit varies depending on one’s insurer, an on-demand visit currently costs $49.

Working with Teladoc and improving its JeffConnect platform aren’t the only things Jefferson Health is doing in the telehealth field. For one, it’s developing the National Academic Center for Telehealth, a hub focused on the intersection of technology and healthcare. Jefferson Health is also training medical students and residents in telehealth.

Photo: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY, Getty Images

Health Union moves into oncology in patient community expansion

The companies that set up and manage patient communities such as PatientsLikeMe, MyHealthTeams and HealthUnlocked bridge a gap between the perspective and voice of people who live with a condition and pharmaceutical companies developing treatments for those diseases. The biopharma industry wants the insight of patient experiences but is restricted by regulatory boundaries. Pharma and biotech companies, among others, have come to rely on the data they gain from working with these companies to inform clinical trial design as well as help them gain a better understanding of what truly improves the quality of life for these patient populations.

Philadelphia-based Health Union is one of those businesses. The first of the 12 patient communities it manages started in 2010 and focuses on migraine headaches. This year, it expects to grow to 17 and has moved into oncology for the first time with the launch of a lung cancer community in January. Health Union has plans to add seven to eight more oncology groups over the next 18 months, according to COO Lauren Lawhon. Among the groups it is planning to add this year are ParkinsonsDisease.net (April), SkinCancer.net (June), AtopicDermatitis.net (July), BladderCancer.net (October), and
ProstateCancer.net (November).

Health Union has partnerships with more than 20 biopharmaceutical companies, including eight big pharma businesses.

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Olivier Chateau and Tim Armand cofounded Health Union. Chateau, the CEO, worked in pharmaceutical marketing for several years and Armand, the president, worked for a big pharma business. I visited their offices on 12th and Sansom as the company hosted a forum for the patient advocate contributors that write for its patient communities, some of whom also serve as moderators for the ongoing discussions within them.

“There’s a perception that patient communities don’t have scale. We think of this as small niche opportunity but over time we reach a large number of patients,” said Armand. “It’s on a larger scale than people’s initial impressions.”

As you might expect, trust is a critical component of these communities, which combine first-person narratives from contributors, who are paid as independent contractors, and people who have a condition in common. They provide a forum for exchanging information on coping rheumatoid arthritis or lung cancer, for example, from diagnosis, treatments and their side effects, the emotional struggle of living with the disease, to the experience of taking part in a clinical trial. Contributors share posts that can take the form of essays to poetry. These kinds of interactions can reduce the social isolation and stress of managing these conditions.

The patient community network does periodic surveys of their members to improve the quality of interactions and get feedback for ways to enhance the overall experience. Health Union generates income from pharma companies by making some of the de-identified data from these surveys available to them. Customized market research, advertising and sponsored content also bring in revenue and over the years the cofounders say they have learned how to balance the needs of advertising with the needs of their subscribers.

Initially, the company didn’t display advertising in its communities at all, which made community members suspicious of how Health Union generated revenue. That’s just one of many items the company has learned over the years. One no go area for ads are pages in which contributor entries highlight the benefits or unpleasant experience of taking various drugs or treatments for their condition. Lawhon noted that it also doesn’t permit pharma companies to contact contributors.

“We measure the success of these communities not by the number of people we drive to the website but by the number who come back — 35 percent come back,” Chateau said. “In return, we give them opportunities to interact with other patients and participate in clinical trials.” 

Tamara Haag, a contributor with rheumatoid arthritis, said she likes being in a position to make a difference for others with RA.

In addition to being a contributor, Haag also serves as a moderator for the RA community, which offers its own set of challenges in a space where no one has a monopoly on pain and suffering and raw emotions occasionally rise to the surface. Haag said her job is creating an environment where participants feel safe and she’s learned how to communicate more effectively both in the RA forum and her day job.

“Getting to have a perspective in a community where readers feel validated and supported is very fulfilling for me,” Haag said.

Photo: DrAfter123, Getty Images

Trump budget proposes 19 percent cut in NIH funding, leaving life science institutions reeling

As part of Trump’s budget proposal, he wants to chop $5.8B from the National Institutes of Health, or 19 percent, as part of a spending overhaul the Department of Health and Human Services.  The budget calls for a major reorganization of NIH’s institutes and centers, describing the move as a way to “help focus resources on the highest priority research and training activities.”

The proposal would also consolidate the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality within NIH, and it would also mean “other consolidations and structural changes across NIH organizations and activities”.

Life science institutions are horrified.

It seems like only yesterday that Congress was prepared to boost NIH spending by $2 billion  — the biggest increase in 12 years.

Here is a round-up of reactions from national and regional institutions.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network released a statement estimating that the NIH budget cuts were likely to cut $1 billion from the National Cancer Institute, noting it would be the biggest budget cut to the institution in its history.

Chris Hansen, president of the network said the cuts would be a significant setback for millions of American cancer patients, survivors and their families and would “dramatically constrain the prospect for breakthrough American medical innovation”.

For the last 50 years every major medical breakthrough can be traced back to investments in the NIH. Because of these investments, there are more than 15.5 million American cancer survivors alive today and researchers stand on the cusp of numerous innovative new diagnostic tools and treatments. From new immunotherapies that harness the body’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells to less toxic and more precise chemotherapies and advanced diagnostic and preventive tools.

“These developments save lives and spur economic progress. NIH-funded medical research is conducted in thousands of labs and universities across the country. These grants in turn spawn increased private investment and development. Drastically reducing NIH’s budget would jeopardize our nation’s potential to save more lives while simultaneously risking America’s position as the global leader in medical research.

The Science Coalition, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of public and private research universities offered a statement that put the proposed cuts in historical context and said they threatened the position of the U.S. as the world’s leader of research and development.

“Since World War II, America’s commitment to scientific breakthroughs has been a continual driver of U.S. economic growth. The personal computer, the Internet, smartphones are all based on research that had its beginnings in labs and centers funded in part by the federal government. The biomedical revolution with its advancement of disease-fighting vaccines and lifesaving drugs and the advance of diagnostic tools such as the MRI would not have occurred without federal support of collaborative research. And, most of the technologies that have made our men and women in uniform the world’s most effective fighting force, all had their start and ongoing improvements in federally funded scientific research.

“Other nations, particularly China, South Korea and India, are investing aggressively in discovery and innovation and are on the path to passing the United States as the world’s largest performer of R&D.”

Jon Retzlaff is the chief policy officer for American Association for Cancer Research, an organization whose 37,000 members include researchers and patient advocates who will feel the sting of Trump’s proposed cuts. He told The Philadelphia Inquirer:

” You have world-renowned institutions in Philadelphia that are reliant on federal funding and so this kind of proposal will set back the tremendous progress that those institutions are making,” he said. “I don’t think there’s ever been a more important time for us to be bringing together the entire medical research community.”

He added: “It’s unfortunate because now is the time to be pressing the accelerator, not utilizing the parking brake.”

University of Pennsylvania Health System is among the largest beneficiaries of NIH funding — amounting to $392 million for fiscal year 2016. Spokeswoman Susan Phillips told the Inquirer it planned to make a case for the NIH funding it receives and “highlight the value of the research we do for our country and in support of the nation’s position as a world leader in biomedical innovation.”

Photo: Bigstock 

Report: Information management in EHRs tops patient safety concerns (Updated)

This post has been updated with comments from William Marella, ECRI Institute executive director of Patient Safety Organization Operations and Analytics and Lorraine Possanza, ECRI Institute program director, Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety.

The steep learning curve the healthcare industry faces in adopting new technology combined with the wide adoption and implementation of electronic health records have made EHR issues a regular feature on ECRI Institute’s annual top 10 list for patient safety concerns. The list highlights healthcare technologies associated with the most adverse events or, more frequently, near misses jeopardizing patient safety and what can be done about them.

This year, information management in EHRs made it to the number one spot on the top 10 list, according to an ECRI news release. The development suggests there’s an urgent need for better training on these EHR systems or at least make it easier for the correct information to be entered and viewed.

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Information management in EHRs is a pretty broad category, but ECRI Institute’s William Marella said it’s at the heart of many of the adverse events the institute has seen. Marella, the executive director of Patient Safety Organization Operations and Analytics, said in an emailed response to questions.

“When clinicians don’t have access to complete information, or when the information isn’t timely, or it’s inaccurate, it can have real consequences on the quality of care a patient receives. For example, we’ve seen cases where allergies are listed in the header of the EHR, but the space only accommodates one or two allergies, while others are visible in a pop-up window only if the user hovers over that space. We’ve seen cases where drugs are listed in a drop-down pick list, and the names are truncated so the user doesn’t know if they’re ordering a standard formulation or an extended release version.”

Marella offered another example from the report — a drug overdose.

“The patient’s current weight wasn’t available to the pharmacist because the interface from the EHR to the pharmacy system was pulling from a field that wasn’t updated. It could also be because the info was not updated or was not visible.”

The report recommends having members of health IT management and health IT workers play a bigger role in patient safety, quality, and risk management programs. Other strategies include encouraging staff who use the EMR system to report concerns.

Lorraine Possanza, an ECRI Institute senior patient safety, risk, and quality analyst and health IT patient safety liaison, noted in the report that it’s not enough for hospital staff to know how to use the EHR system. They need to know what it is capable of.

Do users know which information is available to them? Do they know which information transfers to other systems? Do they rely on information in the record? Do users know what to expect—for example, do they know whether the most recent lab result appears at the top or bottom of the list?

Marella noted that better system testing of hospitals’ EHR systems could avoid many of the adverse events he cited in the report but this but unfortunately this often isn’t treated as a priority due to resource constraints.

The goal of EHRs — to make it easier to share patient records and identify patient’s needs — is also what has the potential to create pitfalls when the wrong patient information is entered. Health information needs to be clear, accurate, up to date, readily available, and easily accessible, the report said.

Clinical decision support is supposed to guide care teams to make better choices for the patient’s benefit, but if a system produces too many alerts, or don’t produce that insight when it is needed, that can undermine the effectiveness pof these products.

The report recommended that a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals oversee CDS to ensure that users have the training they need and that the system is tested properly.

Also, since each healthcare facility is different, these multidisciplinary teams should also address basic questions such as when CDS alerts are triggered, the patients this should be used for and other critical factors controlling the use of this tool.

Another issue that should be considered: Should the CDS alert be structured so that providers need to do something before they can proceed?

Asked in an email to share her thoughts on what hospitals should look out for regarding EMR implementation, Possanza cautioned institutions not to use EMR and EHR interchangeably.

“The EMR is the limited record that was typically limited to one practice setting, and the EHR is the record that becomes available in multiple settings—the hospital, the ambulatory setting, the long-term setting, for health information exchanges and for patient portals. Best practices include understanding and using your system to its capacity, using the tools that are available to you.”

Other concerns outlined in ECRI’s list include:

  • Unrecognized patient deterioration;
  • Test result reporting and follow-up;
  • Antimicrobial stewardship;
  • Patient identification;
  • Opioid administration and monitoring in acute care;
  • Behavioral health issues in nonbehavioral health settings;
  • Management of new oral anticoagulants;
  • Inadequate organization systems or processes to improve safety and quality.

Although these reports are aimed at hospitals, I hope healthcare startups are paying attention, because this list of pain points in healthcare settings and what needs to be done to improve them is exactly the kind of insight they should be applying to their businesses.

Photo: a-image, Getty Images