Week of May 9, 2022

This week we highlight a promising application that leverages artificial intelligence to scan biopsies to help guide cancer treatments. We also look at a novel approach using music to treat multiple sclerosis, a new report that indicates new COVID-19 strains are starting to show a predictable pattern, and a partnership between the Food and Drug Administration and the Ukraine Ministry of Health. Lastly, the FDA approves a portable ultrasound device to help with the detection of breast cancer. Each week we highlight five things you need to know about in the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.

One of the most inspiring applications of AI in life sciences is to identify disease biomarkers that humans simply don’t have the bandwidth or computational power to identify. A startup, Imagene, focused on using AI to analyze digital images of biopsied tissue to help determine targeted therapies, has received a $21.5 million series A. Those leading the series A include Larry Ellison, billionaire co-founder of Oracle.

MedRhythms has an interesting approach to treating multiple sclerosis patients that includes using the rhythms of music to stimulate and improve the gait of patients. The company has partnered with Biogen through a $3 million upfront license. If approved and commercialized, MedRhythms stands to receive up to $117.5 million in milestone payments.

When scientists talk about a disease becoming endemic, the criteria include that infection levels stabilize and the disease becomes predictable. With COVID-19, we are not there yet. A new study reported in Nature, however, offers hope that the development of new variants is starting to follow a predictable pattern. If this holds true, it will offer governments and public health administrators new tools for planning for and managing future surges and outbreaks.

Humacyte, a clinical stage biotech company focused on regenerative medicine, announced that it will provide its human acellular vessels (HAVs) to several Ukrainian hospitals for treatment of patients who have suffered vascular trauma. This program was developed through a partnership with the FDA and the Ukraine Ministry of Health. Humacyte is currently conducting a phase 2/3 clinical trial in the United States to evaluate usage of the HAVs on trauma patients. The product has not received regulatory approval from the FDA or any other agency.

ISono Health announced that it had received FDA clearance for its Atusa technology device, a portable ultrasound system that uses machine learning to generate whole-breast images in just a couple minutes. Mammograms are still considered the gold standard for breast cancer detection but ultrasounds are a highly effective and radiation-free alternative to help women monitor and identify potential issues earlier. Breast cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death globally and the company hopes their device will help address this problem.

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