COVID-19


Daniel Kraft on the Digitome in the Age of COVID

“The new drug is the engaged individual,” says today’s guest, Daniel Kraft.

Daniel is the founder of Exponential Medicine where he has championed digital health and the explosion of wearable technologies.  He's also hosting the new Healthy Conversations podcast--go check it out!  There you will find interviews with the innovator’s of today’s medical culture, including shows with former FDA Director, Scott Gottlieb, and genomic medicine guru, Eric Topol.

Produced by the pharmacy chain, CVS, Daniel says the podcast is an effort to help “inoculate the world against the infodemic.”

But back to the wearables explosion . . . it’s been a while since we've had Daniel to the program.  He can riff about these new technologies like no other.  What are his thoughts on the pandemic?  What will be the longterm impact of COVID on medicine?  And . . . can he update us on the latest in wearables?  As Daniel comes out of a kind of stream of consciousness "flow state" when talking about the flowering of new technologies, we are left wondering what will the actual adoption be like.  Has COVID lessened society's concerns over privacy and nudged us closer to being friends with our "digitome?"

“ . . . there’s insidables, and underwearables for remote patient monitoring with a tag in ten pairs of underwear. You’re always censored. They’re being used to track respiratory de-condensation at home. It could be from COVID or from a pneumonia. And also, let’s go beyond the wrist. It could be from the laptop from which I’m talking to you with Skype or Zoom. The camera could be modified to pick up our vital signs or blood pressure or stress levels. Or wifi has been modified to pick up vital signs. Amazon Alexa type speakers can be modified to pick up heart rate. We’re going to start to pick up our digital exhaust, or our “digitome," for not just data but actionable insights. And I think what’s shifting and being enabled with COVID as a catalyst is moving from quantified self to quantified health. This will all start to flow—your digital biomarkers to your EMR, to your phyciscian, or to your payer, or to a pharma company as a clinical trial."

PacBio and Labcorp Team Up on a Global Pan-Pathogen Surveillance Network

Will there be a fourth surge of COVID here in the U.S.? Already that we’re asking the question and it’s not an inevitability is a good sign. It’s become a race between vaccination clinics and viral variants.

The U.S. was a bit slow to this race, but we are catching up. Viral surveillance has become a key part of any nation’s pandemic strategy. This past month, PacBio and Labcorp announced a partnership that brings the tool of long read sequencing to this effort.

Jonas Korlach, CSO at PacBio, and Brian Caveney, President and CMO at Labcorp, join us to discuss their joint surveillance work. Their partnerhsip is not only national but is putting in place what they call a “global pan-pathogen surveillance network."

Jonas compares the network to the kind of close surveillance that global weather systems have been doing for many years. Brian says that Labcorp has an international footprint. He's optimistic that those countries that have been viral hotspots around the world will be working together in close scientific collaboration aided by new laboratory tools to prevent the next pandemic.

Since this podcast was recorded, the Biden administration has announced huge investments in innovation and research as part of their new $2 trillion Jobs Plan. We can hope that there is money marked specifically for the pandemic preparedness infrastructure Jonas and Brian are calling for today and that some version of this plan passes.

Will High Sensitivity Proteomics Enable a New Paradigm in Precision Health? with Kevin Hrusovsky, Quanterix

Kevin Hrusovosky’s career has been dedicated to transforming medicine from reactive “sick care” to preventative personalized care. A serial entrepreneur, he currently serves as the CEO of Quanterix, a company which has just nabbed $700 million and is raising the bar on proteomics testing.

“Genomics can tell you what your predisposition is,” he says in today’s interview, “proteomics can tell you the earliest moment you are in a disease cascade.”

Quanterix has, like many other companies in the past year, added COVID testing to their lineup. Where they have made their mark in the pandemic as well as in many other disease areas is with the high sensitivity of their testing. This new sensitivity will ultimately lead to high quality, at-home COVID testing and coupled with wearables, early preventative testing for other diseases, says Kevin.

Tests that are up to 1000 times more sensitive than older technologies are opening up opportunities in early detection of cancer, infectious disease, and heart disease. Kevin believes we will see a shift in the testing paradigm. Patients will be tested earlier: not just when they have symptoms, but when they are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. The company is also working with pharmaceutical companies to better stratify patients for Alzheimer’s trials.

How will patients know to be tested if they are pre-symptomatic? How does Kevin see the proteomics tools space compared to that of genomics?

Join us as we zoom out from the pandemic to look at the precision health movement as powered by proteomics.

Playing Catch Up--Viral Surveillance in the U.S. with Will Lee of Helix

How fast is the coronavirus mutating? Why is the U.K. variant, or B.1.1.7, more transmissible than original strains of the virus? Is viral surveillance the weak spot in the U.S.'s fight against the pandemic?

Will Lee is the VP of Science for Helix, a population genetics company that has had a unique national footprint and ability to retool into a large scale COVID testing lab. Last month the company announced a collaboration with the sequencing and diagnostics company, Illumina, as well as with the CDC to track the so-called U.K. variant of the coronavirus. Their data is being used by the CDC and others to track how far this variant has penetrated the U.S.

Will informs us today about the collaboration and efforts going forward at Helix to track the South African strain, other variants and the importance of surveillance strategies in the larger U.S. efforts to beat the pandemic.

Is This A Unique Time for Science? We Ask Sci-fi Writer Kim Stanley Robinson

Has this pandemic presented a unique moment for science in our history? Or is it just a strange and temporary moment of science fiction? Or both?

Sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson (The Mars Trilogy, The Ministry of the Future) recently penned an essay in the New Yorker about how the virus has “changed our imaginations” and created a new “structure of feeling.”

Being a utopian sci-fi writer, Kim Stanley is in the business of looking for silver linings to major human tragic events such as the one we’re in. We wanted to have him on to see whether this event will cause a lasting change to the way people think about science.

 

Keith Robison on the State of Sequencing: 2020 Edition

We speak directly with the Oracle today. It's Keith Robison, blogger at Omics Omics. Your All Knowingness, we ask, what has happened in the world of sequencing technology this year?

“The companies may need a mulligan,” he quips and laughs.

But then, maybe, not. It turns out the great Pandemic has driven sequencing technology in its own way. There’s been an explosion of sequencing based diagnostics. That trend was already happening, but the pace was mightily booted along. And all of the technologies have been involved—some new entrants as well--used for their own strengths, to track the powerful virus and all its speeding variations.

We take the flagships one by one, from 10X to the small Genapsys, asking the Oracle in the end whether there is any more room for a shakeup in this mature space. We finish with an impressive story of clinical sequencing for rare disease diagnosis at a world record speed. Oh, Oracle, tell us the future.

SynBioBeta 2020 with John Cumbers

Synthetic biology was surging like perhaps no other bio-based industry when the pandemic struck, and it has had some unique weapons in its arsenal for aiding in the fight against COVID. There are the leading vaccine makers such as Moderna using synthetic biology, as well as antibody technology and CRISPR based testing. But many of the surging trends from the last year have only been made more urgent this year: small molecules, food tech, synthetic materials.

Living with a pandemic is making humans more aware of our scientific dependence.

Today, it's our annual check in with the synthetic biology space—a review of the year and a preview of the leading conference for the industry, SynBioBeta 2020. There’s no one better to do that with than founder John Cumbers. SynBioBeta 2020 takes place this September 29-October 1. And because it’s virtual, you can attend from anywhere. www.synbiobetaevents.com



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