Drug screening – improving the testing process
Ahead of an upcoming feature in Healthcare Global Magazine, Novoheart’s co-founder and CSO Kevin Costa gave us some insight into the issues faced when researching, developing and getting new drugs to market.
One of the big issues in the treatment of cardiac conditions currently is how difficult it is to get new drug candidates tested and approved using existing technology and parameters. Typically, the development of a new drug candidate costs US$2-4bn and takes more than a decade, with failure rates for new drugs of circa 90%.
The primary cause of drugs being withdrawn is heart toxicity. In testing, non-human and non-cardiac cells may be used which is not the optimal way to get an idea of human response and can lead to false negative or false positive clinical results, compromising overall success.
The limited number of human hearts to test on particularly impacts the proper testing of new drugs designed to treat heart condition and has in the past led to products entering the market which were unsafe.
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“The way scientists test diseases are often by simulating that disease on an animal,” explains Kevin Costa, Chief Science Officer at Novoheart. “They call these ‘knock-out mice’ or ‘transgenic mice’, where you can change aspects of the mouse to behave like the human disease… but the bottom line is, mice aren’t humans, and especially the heart is fundamentally different as the heart in a mouse will beat seven or eight times as fast.
“It’s not only faster and smaller, but there are obvious things about the heart that are different and have very fundamental consequences in terms of how the heart handles calcium, how the heart is susceptible to arrhythmias, how the heart contracts, and what the actual molecular interactions are within the hear muscle… all in all, this means the mouse heart just isn’t predictive of how human hearts behave.”
Novoheart has developed living heart tissues which can deliver a predictive accuracy of 90% or more, which has the potential to make screening processes for new medication safer, faster and cheaper. The mini heart acts as an advanced human heart surrogate and can be used by drug developers as a solution to what is currently an ineffective system.
Walmart, the next health tech giant - a timeline
Retail giant Walmart has been building its healthcare division for a number of years, but its recent acquisition of a telehealth firm and the slow down of its clinic expansion suggest its focus has now shifted to health tech. We look at key moments in Walmart's history in healthcare.
Walmart announces plans to provide "full primary care services" by 2020. The plans include opening clinics in underserved, urban areas, where the chain has many existing stores.
A series of “Healthcare Begins Here” events launch at Walmart stores, where consumers are given information on leading healthy lives, as well as free blood pressure, blood glucose and vision screenings, and access to vaccinations.
As part of the organisation's commitment to pursue a more data-centric approach to worker safety, Walmart partners with StrongArm, manufacturers of safety wearables. Staff begin wearing FUSE, a small sensor worn between their shoulder blades that detects injury risk. Within a year, ergonomic injuries decreased by 65%.
Walmart opens its first health centre in Dallas. The 10,000 square-foot "super centre" offers primary care, X-rays and ECG, counselling, dental, optical, hearing and community health services. Prices are affordable regardless of health insurance status.
The same year a partnership with Doctor on Demand is announced, a telehealth company offering mental health services. As part of the agreement Walmart employees are able to access these services for free.
The first health and wellness clinic opens in Springdale, Arkansas, providing primary care, dental care, vision and hearing services as well as behavioural health, fitness and wellness education classes.
Walmart acquires CareZone’s medication management technology. CareZone's app reminds users to take their medication and provides refill reminders. The acquisition complements Walmart's existing pharmacy service.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart is in talks with Verizon to implement 5G wireless service in select sites, to help boost digital health services.
As part of its COVID-19 response, drive-thru testing is offered at hundreds of Walmart Neighborhood Market drive-thru pharmacy sites, free of charge through Humana .
The retail giant teams up with the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer telehealth services to veterans at stores in Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa.
Walmart Mexico signs a deal with Jack Nathan Medical Corp, a Canadian tech-focused healthcare provider. This will see 153 new medical clinics open within stores across Mexico, taking the total in the country to 203.
Walmart announces it is acquiring MeMD, a multi-speciality telehealth provider. The acquisition will enable Walmart Health to provide access to virtual care across the US. At the same time it is reported that plans to open further clinics are deliberately slowing down.
"Today people expect omnichannel access to care, and adding telehealth to our Walmart Health care strategies allows us to provide in-person and digital care across our multiple assets and solutions" Dr. Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president for Health & Wellness said of the announcement.