Apple Watch Science Team Working On Inner-Bezel Non-Invasive Blood Sugar Monitoring…

April 13, 2017 - Leave a Response

There are over 30 million people living with diabetes in the US alone. Of those, some 22 million have been diagnosed, so some eight to nine million do not know they have it. Millions more are living with pre-diabetes — and millions more of both — living in the EU, and Japan.

So it should come as no surprise, given Apple’s foray into the HealthKit app (our coverage; March 2015), that it would be working on much more sophisticated, hard core med device/diagnostics — embedded right into the bezel or strap of its flagship watch. And it would target the very high end of the market, of course. Here is a bit from AppleInsider — on it all:

. . . .Apple has reportedly hired a team of biomedical engineers to develop noninvasive glucose sensors for integration in Apple Watch, a solution that could lead to continuous monitoring of blood sugar levels for users with diabetes. . . .

As a (long ago) ex-diagnostic device hand, here — even though Merck is no longer in the hand-held diagnostic apps/devices space proper, I’ll conjecture that this news is likely to send a minor shockwave through the device giants out there.

True enough, a robustly functional bezel-skin-sensor of this sort is no small feat of miniature engineering, but with Apple’s hoard of cash — and deep bench of available talent — I’d predict they’ll get it. . . solved.

If your Apple Watch can feed you (or your doc) a continuous data set, of blood sugar levels, and alert you to a need for insulin, in near real time — all carried on the back of your usual time-piece and personal assistant. . . at least the high end of those 31 million people may well be. . . lost to the old line med device/diagnostic marketeers. Word.

Cold, windy, gray and rain-soaked here, this morning. Ugh. But onward, just the same.


UPDATE: A Year And A Quarter Later, Four Possible Planet “X” Candidates Float — Well Beyond Pluto

April 12, 2017 - Leave a Response

“…All the melodies mysterious,
Through the dreary darkness chanted;
Thoughts in attitudes imperious,
Voices soft, and deep, and serious,
Words that whispered, songs that haunted….

All the soul in rapt suspension,
All the quivering, palpitating
Chords of life in utmost tension,
With the fervor of invention

With the rapture of creating

Longfellow (again)

I am still floating, suspended above the Earth, here (from a great day, indeed!) — so space science is on tap as a night cap, once again. . . smile.

It seems that citizen scientists using distributed computing power have identified at least four possible candidates for the elusive, large, dark and distant planet we mentioned in the dead of a deep snowstorm, at the nadir of our funk, in January 2016.[Backgrounder from January 2016 here.] What is astonishing, to me — is that the world, working together, has identified — in a year — what any one science team would have likely taken a generation, to work out.

All by using strictly mathematical models, of where and when, it ought to be seen. Do indeed watch (again!) the Caltech story of Planet 9 unfold, before your eyes (about 2 minutes in duration):

Here’s last week’s blurb from

. . . .Citizen scientists have flagged four objects for follow-up study in the hunt for the hypothetical Planet Nine.

The four unknown objects were spotted in images of the southern sky captured recently by the SkyMapper telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. More than 60,000 people from around the world scoured these photos, making about 5 million classifications, said researchers with the Australian National University (ANU), which organized the citizen-science project.

Astronomers will now use Siding Spring and other telescopes around the world to investigate the four objects to determine if they’re viable Planet Nine candidates. . . .

Do sleep well, all you precious cargo, on our little third rock. . . as we each traverse separate, but entangled, and yes angled-elliptical orbits — spanning hundreds of generations of our own life-times, grinning to John Legend acoustics and Vanessa Williams in retro mode — now we nod off, imagining anew another body of unwasted grace, floating as a shepherd moon — to various other little world-itas. . . fantastic! Be excellent to one another. . . it’s almost the holiday weekend!


Minor Update: State Of Hawaii Seeks En Banc Review, In The Ninth Circuit…

April 12, 2017 - Leave a Response

Attorneys for the State of Hawaii parties have overnight asked the Ninth Circuit to make the initial merits brief and oral argument an en banc proceeding. Citing “the exceptional importance of the questions presented” — and the outcome’s nationwide effect on our system of ordered liberty — in addition to quoting portions of the Fourth Circuit’s own order which granted en banc review, out east (on the same general matter), I would bet that the Ninth Circuit’s Chief will poll the judges — and let a majority vote decide, as it did last time, in late February/early March.

The only potential downside is that the Ninth Circuit decision will be on essentially the same time line as the Fourth’s. [As a prior three member panel, logistically speaking, the Ninth was all but certain to be the first to publish a decision.] Here’s a bit:

. . . .Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered initial hearing en banc in a similar case that involves a challenge to the same Executive Order. In light of the Fourth Circuit’s action, Appellees respectfully move this Court to hear this case en banc as well. Appellees have conferred with the Government, which states: “In light of the government’s interest in an expedited resolution of the important legal issues presented by both the stay motion and the merits appeal, the government supports initial review by the full Court if, but only if, the Court determines that initial en banc consideration would not delay the briefing, argument, or resolution of the stay or the appeal. . . .”

Countering that small concern of “which Circuit gets an opinion out first“, however, is the reality that by its very nature, the much larger Ninth Circuit en banc roster is decidedly sympathetic to First Amendment claims — so this greatly reduces the chance that (by a draw of lots), Hawaii gets an unduly narrowly-minded three member panel. Now you know. Grinning — at the prospect of making new law.


[U] “Swamp: Fear Not, Thy Depths Shall Not Be… Drained” Dept. — Merck Hires HHS Sec. Dr. Price’s Former Chief Of Staff — To Lobbyist Slot

April 12, 2017 - Leave a Response

Ahem. Well. So much for “draining that swamp,” right? [Update: My counter tells me this is post number 4,200 on this site.]

Despite 45’s various pledges about getting tough on pharma pricing — it turns out that all the usual suspects are now all hiring as a lobbyist, the firm that houses the former chief of staff to HHS Secretary Price (Trump’s main man!) — to lobby on reimbursement issues, among other topics.

This is why federal disclosure laws are so critical: at least we the people may see what is being done, in our name.

Moreover, this is but one tiny example — proving a general narrative — 45 is a. . . fraud. This junk is rolling out, all over DC.

And to be clear, Merck is just playing the game in the usual smart way. No dart thrown, here — or at Amgen or PhRMA — they’d be fools not to have this guy as their mouth piece in DC. And I am sure he’s a very capable ethical advocate. It is just an endless revolving door game, in truth. . . .

From the LD-1 Kenilworth had filed last month, then:

. . . .Matt McGinley — Covered Positions: Chief of Staff, Rep. Tom Price; Chief of Staff, Republican Policy Committee; DCOS & LD, Rep. Brian Kerns. . . .

UPDATED: 04.17.2017 — Merck now reports that the $20,000 it spend in Q1 2017 with the lobbying firm was for “. . .Tax Reform: International tax provisions as it relates to the taxation of income derived from intangible property. . . .” We will watch the full reporting cycle this year to see whether that remains — as the limit of the firm’s engagement. . . . [End, Updated portion.]

Ahh. . . it smells like. . . swamp, to me. 45 has not a snowball’s chance in the River Styx of ending this sort of coziness [my cynical side says it is all intended, all the bluster was for the suckers-show, only]. Hilarious. Even so, I find I cannot stop. . . grinning (on this clear azure morning — old friends are the best friends!), despite this rather cynical turn of events, on drug and biologic price policy setting. Onward!


Will NASA Say, On Thursday There Is Methane Being Produced — In Enceladus’ Subsurface Oceans?

April 11, 2017 - Leave a Response

. . .Under Mount Etna he lies,

It is slumber, it is not death;

he struggles at times to arise,

And above him the lurid skies

Are hot with his fiery breath. . . .”

Once again, it is with hope — that we look out, into this clearing Spring night sky. . . it is ever thus, for us.

In two days’ time, we will hear from NASA, as to the latest findings from Cassini’s data, on Enceladus (imaged with Cassini, at right). Just read what AstroBiology has to say this evening [couldn’t have said it better, myself]:

. . . .On Thursday NASA will announce evidence that hydrothermal activity on the floor of an ice-covered ocean on Saturn’s moon Enceladus is most likely creating methane from carbon dioxide. The process is indicative of possible habitable zones within the ocean of Enceladus.

But before we go any further, “habitable” does not mean “inhabited”. . . .

Interestingly, just as there are many mechanisms that could be operating on Enceladus that involve geochemistry (i.e. no life) there are some possible mechanisms that could be suggestive of biological processes. There are forms of life on Earth that use hydrogen to produce methane from and carbon dioxide in a process known as methanogenesis. As such, if similar conditions exist on Enceladus, the issue of habitability arises. But again, this could just be chemistry that happens without any living processes involved.

On our planet these hydrothermal vents often host complex ecologies with some microorganisms deriving energy directly from the mineralogical chemistry surrounding these vents instead of obtaining energy from the sun. In turn, larger life forms feed upon these microorganisms and entire communities can arise. Unlike the ecological interactions we are used to seeing on Earth’s surface where life either depends directly on sunlight or eats life forms that depend on sunlight, these deep hydrothermal communities are able to operate without any energy input from the sun. There are also hydrothermal systems that operate near to – or at – the surface of Earth that also host forms of life that rely on chemistry instead of sunlight as an energy source. . . .

As to exquisite Cassini herself, earlier this morning NASA sent the command sequence to begin her final series of plunges through the openings in Saturn’s rings — the “grand finale”. It took the signals 160 minutes to round-trip, in ping and response. That’s at the speed of light — so golden Cassini (writhing slowly in the darkness). . . is mighty far away.

Now, do click at right, to enlarge, and drink, drink in the dark chemistry there — lustily — from Longfellow’s ode to Enceladus — those are “words writ in water,” indeed. . . . Chemistry. . . is served! And just like love — life too, finds a way. . . So I too — will. . . rise! smile — g’night, all of good will. . . .


As C. Robert Kidder Retires From Merck Board — Dr. John H. Noseworthy Nominated To Join…

April 11, 2017 - Leave a Response

This is a much expected (and regularly telegraphed, by the annual SEC filed proxies) transition. It will leave Merck’s board at 13 members. [In addition, we learn in the SEC filing that Chairman and CEO Kenneth Frazier made over $21 million last year. But he clearly earned it. So no point in any additional posting on it.]

Not much else to say.

From the overnight Dr. Noseworthy announcement/press release then:

. . . .“We are pleased to nominate Dr. John Noseworthy to stand for election to the Merck board and look forward to benefiting from his first-hand insights about patient care and health care delivery as a leader of one of the largest non-profit health systems in the United States,” said Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer, Merck.

Dr. John H. Noseworthy is president and chief executive officer of Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit organization operating in five states that is dedicated to medical care, research and education. Prior to his current appointment, he served as chair of Mayo Clinic’s Department of Neurology, medical director of the Department of Development, and vice chair of the Mayo Clinic Rochester Executive Board. Dr. Noseworthy is a professor in the Department of Neurology and served as editor-in-chief for Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology. . . .

Now you know. I’m sure Dr. Noseworthy will serve honorably — and keep his word, to be independent. Onward.


[U] In The Right-Leaning Fourth Circuit, A Full 15 Member Appeal Hearing May 8…

April 10, 2017 - Leave a Response

This will not matter in the longer run, but the right-leaning Fourth Circuit has granted 45 a full en banc appeal hearing — that should mean something like 15 active appellate justices. My backgrounder, is here.

[My guesses? Gregory, as Chief Judge, Wilkinson, Niemeyer, Motz, Traxler, King, Shedd, Duncan, Agee, Keenan, Winn, Diaz, Floyd, Thacker and Harris, as Circuit Judges, and Davis, as likely Senior Circuit Judge. That’s just a rather long-winded hunch. Smile. . . .]

The order was entered this afternoon, thus:

. . . .A majority of judges in regular active service and not disqualified having voted in a requested poll of the court to grant hearing en banc, IT IS ORDERED that hearing en banc is granted.

The parties and amici curiae shall file a total of 16 paper copies of their briefs and appendices in this case. For previously filed briefs, the additional paper copies shall be filed by April 14, 2017. For new briefs, 16 paper copies shall be
filed together with the electronic copy.

This case is calendared for oral argument on May 8, 2017, in Richmond, Virginia. . . .

It is truly of scant moment, since the Ninth will rule by a three member panel (and although argument is a week later, the Ninth’s decision will almost certainly be published ahead of the Fourth’s, on sheer logistics) — and it is all headed to the Supremes, in any event.


Merck IT No. 4 Hub Update — From Austin: City Council Vote This Thursday…

April 10, 2017 - Leave a Response

This series — on at least the potential for a fourth Merck IT hub in Texas, near the UT Medical campus, has garnered lots of Google-driven search traffic (according to my internal dashboards). So — we will update on it with more frequency, now. [Just smart reporting, to do so. . . smile.]

My earlier backgrounders on it all, are here and here; and the local press story is here, Please do go read it allquite detailed — but here is a bit:

. . . .The company’s application for the incentive package notes it will have 180 jobs at approximately $64,000 per year and another 360 positions at $87,000 per year.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo said she wants to see a commitment to a set number of employees hired from Austin’s workforce.

Other Council members expressed similar concerns during the session but also appeared to see benefits of bringing a global health care giant to Austin to partner with the Dell Medical School. The next hearing and vote to approve or deny the package is scheduled for Thursday’s Council meeting. . . .

The bolded bit is critical — if Austin taxpayers offer Merck money, it ought to be local techies that get jobs, not just more HQ IT people shipped out — from Kenilworth, NJ. And, just as our commenter(s) suggested, Merck doesn’t in any way need this incentive money, in order to move forward — but it will certainly pocket it, if offered. [The modest amount of the incentive likely reflects the state level tax breaks a company like Merck would enjoy, inside Texas — compared to other states. Corporate taxes, at the state level, in Texas, are very, very company favorable — compared to other states.]

Even so, because Kenilworth is talking to several likely host cities about this new IT hub, a “race to the bottom” may yet ensue, among them — and that would be a tough prospect, for the local citizenry: effectively “buying jobs” — for the city. Sub-optimal indeed, for the locales.

And now, with the shortened week approaching, it turns out that I’ll now likely stay put for the full week. . . we shall see. Be excellent to one another — always.


Another Reason To Be Smitten — With The Octopus…

April 9, 2017 - Leave a Response

We have long known that the octopus is an exquisitely rare creature. Its complex behavior patterns, and often shocking adaptability, suggest at least a rudimentary form of cunning. . . . Certainly far more intelligence — than any other invertebrate.

They can open jars, and squeeze their entire bodies through a hole no larger than their eye socket [eye size is a limiting variable it seems; it cannot be collapsed].

But just this past Thursday, in the journal Nature, a late-breaking study suggests they may be doing something significantly more astounding. They may be editing their own messenger RNA — in near real time — as water temperature rises, for example. Adapting their DNA at the protein level, in moments (or days), not generations.

To be clear, that last bit hasn’t been proven yet — but it seems a logical supposition, from this latest data. Do go read a nice lay-person’s leveled take on it all — in The New York Times, this Sunday morning:

. . . .Scientists say coleoid cephalopods, a group encompassing octopuses, squid and cuttlefish, make much more extensive use of RNA editing than other marine and land animals. . . . and do so quite rapidly.

[Scientists] found that coleoids have tens of thousands of so-called recoding sites, where RNA editing results in a protein different from what was initially encoded by DNA. When they applied the same methods to two less sophisticated mollusks — a nautilus and a sea slug — they found that RNA editing levels were orders of magnitude lower. Next, the researchers compared RNA recoding sites between the octopuses, squid and cuttlefish species and found that they shared tens of thousands of these sites to varying degrees. By comparison, humans and mice share only about 40 recoding sites, even though they are hundreds of millions of years closer in evolution than octopuses and squids. . . .

Trivia: In “date-speak“, an octopus is someone who — by sheer force of “tentacle reach” — blocks out all other possible thoughts. Becomes the all-consuming fore-brain occupant (by outright ownership, or lease). Is. . . the sun, the moon and the stars. . . .

And yet, we are quite smitten with such creatures. They thrill us, in fact. So here’s to the octopus, at right! Onward with an ear to ear grin, then. . . .


Huzzah! 23andMe FINALLY Clears FDA — On Some Disease Tests…

April 8, 2017 - One Response

We have been following this company — for almost four years now. [Some may recall that we were an early adopting customer, too!]

So it is “well, with my soul” — so good to see them get this much needed FDA nod. More selfishly, now my complete original packet of DNA based diagnostic information will be restored, on the company’s servers — for my perusal and download.

I was able to see these test results initially in 2013, before FDA ruled they needed to be vetted (my later backgrounder is here). Then they were disabled, in the toolkit, until this late week — now they are visible, once again. Very cool! Here’s the NBC story — it happened while I was off-grid, on Thursday:

. . . .”These are the first direct-to-consumer (DTC) tests authorized by the FDA that provide information on an individual’s genetic predisposition to certain medical diseases or conditions, which may help to make decisions about lifestyle choices or to inform discussions with a health care professional,” the FDA said in a statement. . . .

“Consumers can now have direct access to certain genetic risk information,” said Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, which approves these kinds of tests.

“But it is important that people understand that genetic risk is just one piece of the bigger puzzle. It does not mean they will or won’t ultimately develop a disease.” “These are the first direct-to-consumer (DTC) tests authorized by the FDA that provide information on an individual’s genetic predisposition to certain medical diseases or conditions, which may help to make decisions about lifestyle choices or to inform discussions with a health care professional,” the FDA said in a statement.

“Consumers can now have direct access to certain genetic risk information,” said Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, which approves these kinds of tests.

“But it is important that people understand that genetic risk is just one piece of the bigger puzzle. It does not mean they will or won’t ultimately develop a disease. . . .”

Now you know — power — in the hands of the health care consumer; properly managed, and understood — it empowers patients to be. . . well. As am I, green across all ten tests! . . . Back, after being out earlier, for a perfect afternoon of mountain biking — to and from a heavy weights session — under clear, azure 70 degree skies! Smile. . . .