Harnessing the power of AI for Global Health

By Anurag Agrawal

With half a billion people in India needing far better access to high quality essential health services, the country’s growing digital expertise and infrastructure offer much scope to help improve lives. Yet it is also clear that the potential for innovation must be matched by careful governance. Almost 400m people in India have smartphones, half a billion use the internet regularly, and mobile data costs are a tenth of the global average. Aadhaar, the Indian digital universal ID, a system of biometrically verifiable unique identification numbers, is now available to most of the country’s residents. India has strong medical, technological and applied research institutions such as the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences, Indian Institutes of Technology and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. The country’s healthy democracy — the largest in the world — provides accountability. There is a big shortage of trained physicians and nurses, but the many auxiliary health workers available means there is a great opportunity to use artificial intelligence and other technologies to support medical staff in their work. Yet concerns about the applications of technology are emerging, not least over privacy, accountability and equality of access in order not to leave the poor behind. A new joint Lancet and Financial Times Commission, chaired by Ilona Kickbusch of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and me, is exploring these challenges.

 

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Medical Devices Stocks Are in Rude Health

By Charley Grant (WSJ)

When earnings season begins in earnest this week, health-care investors will be relying on pacemakers and artificial knees.

The S&P 500 Health Care Sector index has returned about 4% so far this year. That is the second-worst performing sector over that period and significantly lags behind the overall market. Policy uncertainty driven by the 2020 elections has held back insurance and hospital stocks, while pharmaceuticals manufacturers have struggled with slowing top-line growth and clinical-trial disappointments.

Medical-device stocks, however, have been a significant bright spot. Cardiovascular specialist Edwards Lifesciences has rallied nearly 50% so far this year. Stryker Corp. , which focuses on orthopedics, is up about 35%.

There are good reasons behind the outperformance. Important technological advances in diabetes care have buoyed sales for Abbott Laboratories ABT +0.24% and DexCom, while breakthrough clinical data in noninvasive heart-valve replacement from earlier this year has lifted Edwards and Medtronic. Large companies with double-digit sales-growth rates aren’t hard to find in the sector.

 

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iGan Partners welcomes Stacey Kline as new Impact Partner

iGan Partners is pleased to announce its new partnership with Stacey Kline, Managing Director of The Good Fund. Stacey is focused on mobilizing capital for good. She's determined to prove that profit and purpose go hand-in-hand, and that impact-per-share is just as relevant as earnings-per-share. Stacey is the founder and managing director of The Good [...]Continue reading

Cancer Is Still Beating Us – We Need a New Start

By Azra Raza (WSJ)

I have been studying and treating cancer for 35 years, and here’s what I know about the progress made in that time: There has been far less than it appears. Despite some advances, the treatments for most kinds of cancer continue to be too painful, too damaging, too expensive and too ineffective. The same three methods—surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy—have prevailed for a half-century. Consider acute myeloid leukemia, the bone-marrow malignancy that is my specialty. AML accounts for a third of all leukemia cases. Currently, the average age of diagnosis is 68; roughly 11,000 individuals die annually from the disease. The five-year survival rate for diagnosed adults is 24%, and a bone-marrow transplant increases the odds to 50% at best.

These figures have hardly budged since the 1970s. The overall rate of cancer deaths in the U.S. has fallen by a quarter since its peak in 1991, translating to 2.4 million lives saved—but improved treatments are not the primary reason. Rather, a reduction in smoking and improvements in screening have led to 36% fewer deaths for some of the most common cancers—lung, colorectal, breast and prostate. And for all those gains, overall cancer death rates are not dramatically different from what they were in the 1930s, before they rose along with cigarette use. Meanwhile, cancer drug costs are spiraling out of control, projected to exceed $150 billion by next year. With the newest immunotherapies costing millions, the current cancer-treatment paradigm is fast becoming unsupportable.

What we need now is a paradigm shift. Today, the newest methods generating the most research and expense tend to be focused on treating the worst cases—chasing after the last cancer cells in end-stage patients whose prognoses are the worst. We need instead to commit to anticipating, finding and destroying the first cancer cells. We must reliably detect the faint footprints of cancer at the beginning and stop it in its tracks. Such prevention represents the cheapest, fastest and safest alternative to the terrible, longstanding treatment trio of slash, poison and burn. It’s the most universally applicable way to save lives, and the estimated cost savings from early diagnosis add up to over $26 billion a year, more than any other new approach can promise.

Earlier detectio n is also the most humane way to improve cancer outcome s. Status quo treatments—the combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation for solid tumors, or chemo and bone marrow transplants for liquid ones—can be brutal and indiscriminate killers. Treatments often leave patients in agony, while providing mere months of added survival. The new immunotherapies can be even more dangerous and harsh. Patients have to be treated in intensive care units, and entire industries are sprouting up just to control the deadly side effects.
I’ve experienced the pain of this situation from the other side of the hospital bed. My own husband, a leading oncologist himself, survived one cancer at the age of 34 and became convinced that he was destined to die young, suspecting every stray blemish of beingmalignant. When a swollen lymph node appeared in his neck in February 1998, he suspected the worse. At first, we were relieved to find it was only a lymphoma and not a much more terrifying metastatic appearance of his previous cancer.
But the treatments we gave him caused his immune system to collapse. His weight went down to a mere 139 pounds from 210, and his face became disfigured by lesions and paralysis. At our daughter’s eighth birthday party, I found him hiding in a bedroom. “What’s wrong?” I asked?

 

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Sam Ifergan mentioned in the Financial Post: Softbank’s Vision Fund is haunting for Unicorns, but Canada’s is not on their radar

A representative of one of the world’s largest tech investment vehicles was in Toronto Monday, but don’t expect SoftBank’s US$100 billion Vision Fund to start buying into Canadian firms anytime soon. Yoshiaki Tanaka, a senior director at SoftBank Telecom America Corp., spoke about the Vision Fund at a Toronto Regional Board of Trade event titled “Finding [...]Continue reading

Toronto researchers study how eyes may be window into brain disease

By Wency Leung


Toronto researchers are testing a technique they say has the potential to be a painless, easy and economical way of identifying the growing number of individuals affected by the neurodegenerative disease – one that consists of a simple eye exam.

Using a specialized camera and software that analyzes how light reflects off the back of a person’s eye, they believe they may be able to detect patterns specific to Alzheimer’s disease even before symptoms develop, including signs of the presence of amyloid, a toxic protein characteristic of the disease.

“Changes in the brain are also visible in the back of the eye,” said Sharon Cohen, behavioural neurologist and director of the Toronto Memory Program, which is testing the retinal scan. “The cells in the brain are mirrored in the back of the eye. The blood vessels in the back of the eye are also similar in characteristics to what’s going on in the brain.”

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iGan Partners welcomes Mark Bhattacharya as new CFO/CCO

iGan Partners is pleased to announce that Mark Bhattacharya has joined our firm as our new CFO/CCO. Prior to joining iGan Partners, Mark was at Morneau Shepell Asset and Risk Management Ltd. (‘MS ARM’) as Head of Operations and Chief Compliance Officer.  Mark brings over 20 years of experience to iGan Partners having previously worked as the [...]Continue reading

Canada seen poised to lead world in food production if we can seize ‘fourth agricultural revolution’

By Naomi Powell.


Were the need to arise, Brian Tischler could simultaneously sip coffee in a café in Vienna, Austria while using his smartphone to steer a tractor across his 2,500-acre farm in Mannville, Alta.

Tischler, 55, is the inventor of AgOpenGPS, an open source software for autonomous tractors that has been downloaded thousands of times by farmers located in places as far afield as Lithuania, Africa and South America. It’s a contribution that has won accolades from media and industry associations alike.

Yet when it comes down to the business of farming, Tischler is quick to shrug off its importance.

“It hasn’t really improved productivity on the farm, and it hasn’t allowed me to relax because I still have to keep an eye on it,” he said. “It’s a lot harder than we think to apply technology to farming in a way that truly helps farmers. That’s the challenge.”

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