At the Interface Digital Health Summit conference held in Vancouver, attendees were given the opportunity to hear new ideas from health industry thought-leaders, see the latest in digital health devices and apps, and meet the top ten finalists of the inaugural Interface Health Excellence Challenge.
The Summit was put on by Interface Health, a not-for-profit global digital health accelerator based in Vancouver. The conference opened with a keynote address by David Chase, whose recent 95 Theses for a New Healthcare Ecosystem proposes new ways of thinking about healthcare, including new incentives and the democratization of health information, with a call to change from a model that is provider-centric to one that is user-centric.
“Everything needed to fix healthcare has already been developed. We just need to start using it better,” Chase told the audience.
The conference featured 40 speakers, digital health entrepreneurs, and sponsors, representing more than 100 companies from eight countries. The speakers touched on a variety important healthcare issues.
Dr. Jiwu Zhang of MeeHealth and RenHe Investment Management in Shanghai discussed the enormous opportunities that exist in China’s health care sector, which has been designated a strategic emerging industry by China’s government.
Peter van der Velden, Managing Partner of Toronto-based Lumira Capital, focused on the lack of investment in digital health startups in Canada relative to the immense investments made in the US as an issue to be addressed.
The highlight of the Summit was the culmination of the Interface Health Excellence Challenge, which involved pitches from 10 finalist companies. The challenge, which launched four months ago, attracted over 150 entries from 20 countries.
Companies had the opportunity to enter the contest in one of several categories: big data and visual analytics, biopharma and digital drugs, consumer engagement, digital therapies and medical devices, mental health, personalized medicine, population health management, telemedicine and virtual therapy, wearables and biosensors, and a wild card domain.
The winner of the Challenge was Boston-based Sproxil. The team received $40,000 in cash and services for their anti-counterfeiting app that enables users in developing nations to discover whether the drugs they purchase are genuine and safe or fake and potentially harmful. The Sproxil team claims that fake anti-malarial and Tuberculosis drugs alone result in 700,000 reported deaths annually.
The runner up, Cloud DX, from Waterloo, Canada, received $20,000 in cash and services for their work to create Pulsewave, a device that can collect over 4,000 data points to help diagnose and treat ten or more different health conditions.
Admetsys, another Boston-based company, took third prize for their artificial pancreas system, which uses simple tools to monitor and adjust the glucose levels of hospitalized diabetics.
The Summit closed with a look at three health-related subjects that are growing in importance: microbiomics, genomics, and personalized medicine.
On microbiomics, Malcolm Kendall of Vancouver’s Microbiom Insights, said that changing, replacing, or otherwise modifying the DNA in human microbiomes makes for a promising new area in medical research.
“Not all microbes are pathogens,” Kendall said. “We know that changes in microbiomes are linked to diseases. Now we’re trying to discover whether those changes are a cause or a symptom.”
Dr. Marco Marra, from the BC Genome Science Centre at the University of British Columbia, shared his views about using genome analyses on tumors to determine which drugs might be most effective in treating them..
The final word belonged to Dr. Brendan Byrne, Chief Innovation Officer of Telus Health, who expressed a message of optimism and support for the continuous effort in personalized medicine and digital health innovation.