Dispensed: A trip to rural Pennsylvania, the final word on uBiome, and the looming cloud wars in healthcare

We spoke with Collective Health CEO Ali Diab at CB Insights’ Future of Health conference this week. Courtesy CB Insights


Welcome to Dispensed, Business Insider’s weekly healthcare newsletter recapping all the work that kept the healthcare team busy this week while we’re all in NYC enjoying the fall weather.

Most of the team spent a big chunk of Wednesday and Thursday hanging out at Chelsea Piers where we were attending/moderating sessions at CB Insight’s Future of Health conference. Between the news and the conference, we somehow managed to squeeze in a selfie of the team all together for the first time!

Let’s get to it. But before I dive in. Are you new to our newsletter? You can sign up for Dispensed here.

First, Erin Brodwin had the scoop on the official end of uBiome. The company has gone from bankruptcy to liquidation.

UBiome Toilet Paper 1
The microbiome testing company uBiome has come under scrutiny after an FBI raid. Hollis Johnson / Business Insider

Bankrupt poop-testing startup uBiome is shutting down

Right before that, she also had the scoop on uBiome losing its lab certification.

It’s the end of the road for a startup that once had investors convinced it was worth $US600 million, and the end of a six-month reporting journey for the healthcare team here.

You can read all of our reporting on the rise and fall of uBiome here.

Separately, last month Zach Tracer and I took a tour of Pennsylvania, making stops in Scranton, Kingston, and Danville and logging way more miles than my rental car would have liked. But along the way, we got a picture of what Geisinger Health System is doing to take care of its ageing population.

Personally, it was interesting for me to see the new primary care clinic Geisinger launched over the summer. Really wishing my primary care office had a lobby with a fake fireplace and snacks on hand.

Geisinger 65 Forward health clinic
The clinic is designed to serve an ageing population. Zachary Tracer/Business Insider

A health system hidden in the heart of Pennsylvania thinks it’s cracked the code on caring for seniors. And it could be the future of healthcare.

  • Geisinger, a health system based in central Pennsylvania, is investing heavily in the basic care it provides, starting with seniors.
  • The hope is that by focusing on primary care and prevention, the health system, which also runs a health plan, could keep more people healthier and out of the hospital.
  • Geisinger’s efforts to care for an ageing population are a preview of the challenges that the US as a whole will face in the coming decades.

Erin has the story on MindMed, a company that wants to develop psychedelics that don’t have hallucinogenic qualities. The goal: treating addiction.

A startup that wants to use psychedelics to treat addiction just raised $US6.2 million from the host of Shark Tank and the architect behind the world’s biggest cannabis grower

  • A new company called MindMed just raised $US6.2 million in a bid to make psychedelics without their characteristic hallucinogenic qualities.
  • Investors in the round include ‘Shark Tank’ host Kevin O’Leary, as well as Bruce Linton, the architect behind the world’s biggest cannabis grower, Canopy Growth.
  • MindMed says it’s currently focused on turning a drug inspired by the psychedelic ibogaine into a treatment for opioid addiction.

Clarrie Feinstein did a deep-dive into neuromodulation, which is being used to treat pain. It’s something that’s coming more into the spotlight as doctors are on the hunt for alternatives to opioids.

The cost, however, can be quite high.

A 50-year-old technology that uses bursts of electricity to treat pain might finally catch on as doctors hunt for alternatives to opioids

Speaking of deep-dives by Clarrie, she also pulled together a look at the $US7 billion hearing loss market and some of the companies that are leading the way there.

Investors are pouring hundreds of millions into startups working to treat hearing loss. Here are the 4 biotechs vying to disrupt the $US7 billion market.

  • Around 48 million people in the US have hearing loss, but there are no approved drugs to treat it.
  • Currently, hearing aids and devices called cochlear implants help people who have impaired hearing, but the devices aren’t cures.
  • Four companies-Frequency Therapeutics, Decibel Therapeutics, Akouos, and Sound Pharmaceuticals-are all developing drugs to treat different types of hearing loss. All have raised considerable funding rounds.

Elsewhere, Emma Court spoke to five VCs about the areas they’re investing in these days.

5 VCs in the hottest area of healthcare explain where they’re placing their next bets

And I spoke with Gregg Talbert, who’s heading up digital and personalised-healthcare partnering at Roche.

I asked him about the company’s data-partnering strategy, and why the pharma giant decided to partner with Clover Health to develop new medications – seemingly an unorthodox choice. It’s not every day you see health insurers working with pharma companies.

Why $US45 billion pharma giant Roche is teaming up with a buzzy health-insurance startup to find new treatments for diseases

Microsoft research peter lee

Microsoft vs. Google vs. Amazon

Also – the cloud wars are heating up. The latest we’ve got our eye on is a deal between Microsoft and Novartis. From Walgreens, to West Coast-based health system Providence St. Joseph Health, to now Novartis, it’s been interesting to see where Microsoft is going deep on AI partnerships in addition to selling its cloud services.

We’ve seen others take similar approaches, like Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic in September signed Google on as its cloud and AI partner, while the health information technology giant Cerner said it had made Amazon Web Services its preferred cloud provider as it moved its business from being hosted on its own data centres to the cloud.

Seems like we’re still in early innings of big cloud contracts in healthcare. Curious how you all are seeing the space shake out. What’s at stake, who stands to win the most? Ping me at [email protected] if you’d like to get nerdy about this!

Missed our sessions at Future of Health?

We’ve got you covered. Here are some of our first dispatches from the conference.

Other highlights: It was interesting to learn more about Uber’s health strategy –in particular how it could help Uber get into more rural communities there hadn’t been a commercial case for yet. And Clover Health CEO Vivek Garipalli’s session ended with some comments that got the crowd fired up – when asked whether Haven’s underrated or overrated, he replied that an insurer like UnitedHealthcare has a better chance of building a commercial bank than JPMorgan has a chance at fixing healthcare. Cue the fire emojis.

That’s it for now, but a quick note that I’ll be out at HLTH later this month! Would love to grab coffee/catch up/do some good Las Vegas people-watching. You can find me at [email protected]

If you’d like to get in touch with the whole team here, you can find us at [email protected]

– Lydia