Welcome to another edition of Dispensed, the weekly healthcare newsletter where we’re busy compiling names for our DC power-players post (if you haven’t submitted a name, now’s your chance!).
On this brisk autumn day, we’ll get right to the stories that filled our minds this week.
Genealogy giant Ancestry is finally in the health business
For so long (and on so many stories), I never was quite sure how to grapple with Ancestry in my beat. Sure, the consumer genetics company was a massive figure that has grown to test the DNA of 15 million people. But in return, those people (including yours truly) were getting reports solely focused on their ancestry. Was Ancestry a digital health company? Or did it have to fit somewhere else?
Well, dear reader, I no longer have to fret about it.
On Tuesday, the company came out with two health reports, aimed at mapping out your health history.
Two noteworthy points of distinction from where I sit from rival 23andMe: The tests have to be ordered by a doctor (which Ancestry provides), and beyond the main test, users who want quarterly updates have to pay into a subscription. You can read more about what’s included in both tests here.
“We didn’t want to be just another company issuing lab reports,” Ancestry CEO Margo Georgiadis told me. You can read more from our conversation here.
I’ll also be interviewing Margo onstage at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas later this month. What questions should I ask her? Shoot them over to me at [email protected]
Next, Erin Brodwin took a deep dive into the microbes that live in your guts and the market potential investors see in them (as illustrated by this fantastic graphic).
They’re betting that sequencing bacteria that live in and on us could be as hot as the consumer genetics business, which tens of millions of people have used to trace their family history or learn about their health.
Investors just bet $US2.4 billion that your gut is the next frontier for the hottest part of healthcare
- Several high-profile startups that promised to draw insights from the bacteria living in and on us, known as the microbiome, have failed in recent months.
- One of them, a company called uBiome, which was valued at $US600 million, said it would shut down on October 1 after months of challenges and setbacks.
- But investors still see the microbiome as a lucrative opportunity for the burgeoning digital-health industry, which has raked in $US36.3 billion from investors since 2011.
- Here’s how the microbiome companies they’re betting on plan to succeed.
Clarrie Feinstein has a great primer on some of the digital health companies looking to address addiction treatment as the opioid epidemic carries on.
The opioid-addiction epidemic costs $US200 billion a year. These 5 digital health startups are trying to expand access to treatments and halt the crisis.
- To curb the opioid-addiction epidemic, startups have been jumping on the opportunity to provide greater access to different types of treatment.
- The startups are focused on medication-based treatment and using patient data to ensure people are following their treatment plans.
- Business Insider chose five companies that are entering the $US35 billion addiction treatment industry, with innovative solutions to help people with opioid use disorder.
UnitedHealth’s big earnings week
All eyes were on UnitedHealth Group’s earnings this week. The company’s third-quarter report sent the stock up 8%.
Ahead of earnings we spoke to Steve Warner, the head of Medicare Advantage at the company’s insurance arm UnitedHealthcare.
One thing that caught my eye in the earnings call: Optum CEO Andrew Witty gave some concrete examples of how OptumCare is shaking out across the US.He laid out why the company’s work in 4 states is key to building its next $US100 billion business.
Health and social media
It’s interesting to see how social media can be used to spread medical information – for better or for worse.
Our UK-based colleague Tom Porter has a great read on how unlicensed medical ‘cures’ are flourishing in closed Facebook groups. He describes how cancer treatments and even surgery are sold beyond the reach of the law in invite-only groups. The groups Porter looked into through his reporting have since been shut down by Facebook.
Contrast that with what Erin Brodwin reported Tuesday. This week,Facebook expanded its blood-donation tool to the entire US, an expansion from a few cities earlier this year. The tool pings people asking them to donate during times of shortages.
It will be curious to see the impact of the tool, and we’ll of course be keeping tabs on the tech giant’s healthcare ambition.
With that, I’ll leave you to your weekends. Thoughts? Tips about any primary care IPOs? Questions I should ask at HLTH?