Can’t figure out what to do with the $52 million you’ve got in your wallet? Worry no more - NASA’s got that covered. For just $35,000 a night, private citizens will be allowed to stay overnight at the International Space Station, starting in 2020. While the room fee is a total steal, they really get you on the “airfare” – around $50 million per rocket-ship seat.

We’ll stay on this planet for now, but the TWTW team is on the move. Our practice – and all our NYC-based Syneos colleagues – will be moving offices next week. So, we’ll be off next week while we unpack some boxes, but will be back in your inbox with the next issue on June 29th.



 “It is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard of,” remarked Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL). When asked about Florida’s Canadian drug importation bill, Shalala, the former HHS Secretary under President Clinton, said it was silly and “just messaging.” She cited significant safety concerns brought about by drug importation and outlined reasons why the Canadians are unlikely to warm to the arrangement.


 “Silicon Valley's most anticipated slide deck just dropped,” wrote Arsalan Arif, Endpoints. Kleiner Perkins alum and tech investing maven Mary Meeker released her annual internet trends report - widely considered a “must-read” for those in tech and media. One section covering consumer healthcare, predicted the “digital impact expanding across [the] ecosystem.” Pour one out for the poor person who had to proof this 333-page deck!


 “Access to healthy meals is a problem,” said Dan Trigub, Uber Health. When it comes to healthcare, Uber has long been focused on connecting patients with the transportation they need to get care. But Trigub said Uber is also looking at “meal delivery that’s covered by insurers.” The program seeks to address the issue of food deserts. Sounds like “Meals on Shared Wheels” to us.


 “25 drugs is not enough," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA.) told Politico. Following reported criticism from progressive House Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is revising her proposal for drug negotiations, which would empower the government to limit drug prices. The plan, which initially mandated negotiation on 25 drugs, will now likely set that number at 250.


 “Americans deserve accurate information about the price they will pay for prescription drugs,” states a lawsuit filed by a number of drug makers along with the Association of National Advertisers. The group is suing the Trump Administration regarding the new rule requiring pharma companies to include a medicine’s list price in direct-to-consumer advertising. The companies purport the rule, which will go into effect this summer, violates their freedom of speech, and will confuse and intimidate patients by not accurately communicating the price a patient will actually pay at the pharmacy.    


Machine-learning mania

If you’re a living human, you’ve probably heard A LOT about “artificial intelligence” by now. It’s not in your imagination – everyone is seemingly obsessed with AI right now.

First thing’s first. AI = any system in which tasks that typically require human intelligence are instead completed by a computer or machine.

Where we are with AI in the U.S:

  • AI is to 2019 what blockchain was to 2018. Mentions of “artificial intelligence” have now surpassed mentions of “blockchain” on public quarterly earnings calls.
  • There’s a whole lot of money where the machine-learning mouth is…Since 2013, healthcare AI startups have raised $4.3B, the most AI-funding across all industries.
  • On just one day of BIO, three separate panels had “artificial intelligence” somewhere in their title. 
  • Doctors are being trained in AI. This week alone, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai announced a new AI center, and the American Medical Associationannounced that AI will be incorporated into medical education.
  • There’s even a Congressional Caucus on artificial intelligence.

There’s huge potential for AI in healthcare, and a diverse set of uses. 

  • There are already FDA-approved AI softwares for clinical imaging & diagnostics. One software program can screen patients for diabetic retinopathy, another analyzes cardiac imaging with its cloud platform. Yet another identifies liver and lung lesions for cancer screening.
  • AI could disrupt clinical trial design and recruitment. Apple has established AI-enabled platforms that help recruit patients for clinical trials - and monitor their health remotely.
  • Big pharma sees AI potential in drug discovery. This year, a number of pharma companies have announced partnerships with AI-startups to discover new drugs, using algorithms to identify novel therapeutic candidates. 
  • Made in China. China has set a goal to be the world leader in AI by 2030, with a $150 billion industry and a particular focus on health. AI is already being used to treat millions of Chinese patients through telemedicine platforms and technologies like Ping An Good Doctor, which connects patients to a remote AI “doctor.”

But there are also a number of risks. The use of AI in healthcare poses new threats to data privacy and security, challenges the patient-physician relationship, and creates some legal and ethical conundrums. And then there’s the potential for AI to fail, as we saw with IBM Watson Health, which had trouble integrating data and sometimes provided inaccurate medical advice. (IBM has since scaled back its hospital business and halted sales of its tool for drug discovery)  As the industry warms to AI more and more, the stakes for failure get higher and higher.

Overwhelmed? So are we. Here’s one more tidbit for the road…

Automated agents designed by DeepMind, Google’s AI lab, can now play virtual capture the flag. In fact, they exhibit “humanlike behavior” when playing. We’re still getting over how creepy the name “DeepMind” is for an artificial intelligence group…

Who wrote this? The managing editors of TWTW are Dana Davis, whose weekend goal is to achieve “inbox zero” and Randi Kahn, who wishes she could use AI to pack for her.

Syneos Health Communications' Reputation & Risk Management Practice is a team of healthcare communications consultants, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. We provide unique solutions to the evolving communications challenges in today’s healthcare industry, using evidence-based approaches to help our clients successfully navigate the most sensitive of situations.

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Image credits: Canada by Federico Panzano from the Noun Project, Car clean by Aneeque Ahmed from the Noun Project, Gavel by Ilsur Aptukov from the Noun Project

And now please enjoy this disclaimer that prevents our team from getting in a heap of trouble: This report may contain links to external or third party websites. These links are provided solely for your convenience. Links taken to other sites are done so at your own risk and Syneos Health accepts no liability for any linked sites or their content. Syneos Health makes no warranties or representations, express or implied about such linked websites, the third parties they are owned and operated by, the information contained on them or the suitability or quality of any of their products or services. Syneos Health does not authorize the infringement of any intellectual property rights contained in material offered through these linked sites. Please refer to the use agreement and/or copyright statements of any external site you visit, or the terms and conditions of any externally provided web site for instructions, restrictions, and guidelines. If you have a question, please contact the webmaster of the external site.

About the Author:

Dana Davis is a strategist in the Reputation & Risk Management Practice, where she helps biopharma clients communicate the value they bring to their stakeholders. Her expertise lies in issues of corporate activism; advising companies that must respond to activist tactics from patients, employees, or investors, as well as companies looking to take a proactive stance on social issues.

Syneos Health Communications' Reputation & Risk Management Practice is a team of healthcare communications consultants, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. We provide unique solutions to the evolving communications challenges in today’s healthcare industry, using evidence-based approaches to help our clients successfully navigate the most sensitive of situations.