Archive for the ‘Our Views’ Category

Making the Case for Smarter Healthcare

July 27th, 2016
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In a conceptual model of healthcare originally proposed by William Kissick, MD, there are three competing issues that enter into any dialogue on how to improve our healthcare system. The three sides of this Iron Triangle of Healthcare are quality, access, and cost. Constant trade-offs have to be made since the classic approach to health economics dictates that you can improve any one – or perhaps even two – of these elements, but only at the expense of the third.

The model states that you can advance the quality of a product or service, making it better for a higher price. Or you can create a lower cost alternative for as many people as possible, but that inevitably means that quality suffers. Each choice has its own set of sociopolitical implications that must be weighed against each other.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Medical innovation takes a village… or an ecosystem

June 10th, 2016
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In 1996, Hillary Clinton used the opening of the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” as the title and central theme of a best-selling book that helped launched a political career in her own right. Today, a full 20 years later – roughly the amount of time it takes to fully raise a baby into an independent adult – she is still very actively pursuing her goals.

While this column takes no position on Ms. Clinton as a candidate, both the proverb and the time horizon in question are good parallels for the development and adoption of important new medical advances. Read the rest of this entry »

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Digital Technology: The Key to Accelerating Clinical Research

March 16th, 2016
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Historically in healthcare, technology developments have outpaced clinical researchers’ ability to leverage these advancements. However, that trend seems to be changing – particularly as it pertains to digital technology and devices. The penetration of mobile devices worldwide is over 50% with close to 4 billion users – and they are quickly becoming our primary tool to monitor health behaviors and collect relevant data. Mobile adoption could help to accelerate clinical research like never before.
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Agilent makes investment in Lasergen

March 8th, 2016
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Agilent is investing $80 million in our client Lasergen, an emerging biotechnology company with innovative next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology. The two companies will collaborate on building a NGS solutions workflow for clinical applications, based on Lasergen’s Lightning Terminators™ sequencing chemistry.

This recent investment showcases the trend toward new players and innovative technology in the NGS space, particularly as the technology moves to more routine clinical use.

Lasergen’s relationship with Agilent is another example of how Popper and Company helps companies create transformative business partnerships.



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When Shooting at the Moon, Take Careful Aim Before Firing

February 23rd, 2016
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During his final State of the Union address, President Obama announced he is charging Vice President Biden with leading a new “moonshot” program to accelerate the pace of improvements in cancer care. While the goal is certainly laudable, I share the “sense of déjà vu” that was eloquently expressed by Vinay Prasad in his recent editorial1 in which he recounts the limited progress seen in the Nixon-era War on Cancer, and even more recently in the G.W. Bush era, when then-NCI Director Andrew Van Eschenbach testified that we could rid the world of cancer by 2010 for just $600 million per year.
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Single Cell Biology: A Step Toward Precision Diagnostics

January 21st, 2016
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The past several years have seen a dramatic increase in the ability to isolate and characterize single cells – leading to advances in diagnostics, drug discovery, stem cell biology, cancer, and many other areas of biomedical research.

These advances have arisen thanks to growing capabilities in various single cell “omics” technologies – which have enabled RNA and DNA sequencing on a genome-wide scale (the interrogation of proteins, metabolites, and many other types of molecules that provide information about cellular growth, differentiation, and the underlying molecular basis of disease).

And why has single cell technology become so attractive within the biomedical research community? Because most studies are currently hampered by sample heterogeneity.

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What Good Is Digital Health If Patients Won’t Use It?

January 5th, 2015
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Our team often talks about the promise of digital health and how it can help empower patients over their own health. From Fitbits to ECG-equipped smartphones to remote telehealth clinics, this new technology is touted as a revolutionary change in medicine.

But what if a patient doesn’t use the technology? What if, like the legendary January gym membership, the wearable’s shine wears off after about three months? A recent Juniper Research study in the United Kingdom predicted that fitness monitoring wearables would dominate the wearable market until 2018—but only for fitness applications. An article in Forbes was itself dominated by quotes from various experts who claimed that digital health would not hold a patient’s (or doctor’s) interest until the technology could demonstrate the value of counting steps, breaths or pushups. And yet another study showed that patients thought digital fitness monitors could help improve their health, but they didn’t want to pay for the technology.

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Popper and Company Ponderings on the Year Ahead in Healthcare

December 22nd, 2014
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At this time of year, many folks look back at the year that was. And indeed 2014 was an interesting year in healthcare.

We, however, prefer to look forward. Every fortuneteller brings her point of view to table. We do, too! We believe that healthcare can be improved by taking a macro and a micro view…one innovation at a time…but always focusing on improving overall efficiency and increasing customer satisfaction. Healthcare is rapidly adopting the imperatives of other markets…so maybe it’s not such a unique industry after all!

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Streaming ECG Technology Could Keep Athletes’ Heartbeats Going

November 21st, 2014
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According to Running USA’s annual marathon report, in 2013 more than 541,000 runners finished over 1,100 marathons, which is a 140% increase in participation since 1990. Increasingly women are joining this running class and now represent almost half the participants. Also adding to this group is a growing number of older runners— those ages 40 and above.

The benefits from running are endless, including reduction of heart disease, increased lung capacity, weight loss, improved bone density, stress reduction and improved mental health. With all of the good news associated with running, there is also a bit of bad news – a small risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD). We are often shocked to hear of an athlete’s death during a race or game. During the 2009 Detroit Marathon, for example, three men died of SCD. The youngest SCD victim was 26 and the oldest 65. SCD events are rare in athletes – about 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 200,000 annually. These deaths generally occur during or after short intense bursts of energy. SCD events effect more men and more non-Caucasian individuals. Sports that require short bursts of activity — basketball, football, soccer, etc. – seem to pose a higher risk of SCD.

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Johns Hopkins mHealth Report Shows Technology’s Impact in Developing Countries

October 20th, 2014
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My friend Alain Labrique, director of the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Global mHealth Initiative, recently issued the initiative’s 2014 Annual Report, and I’m not at all embarrassed to share my initial response upon opening it:


From its work with Maiti Nepal to use mobile technology to prevent human trafficking; to improving maternal health by providing remote education, advice and services; to collaborating with policy leaders in South Asia to enable evidence-based mhealth innovations – all 130 projects supported by the initiative are inspiring. The JHU report provides proof that digital and mobile technologies can indeed help resolve what had been seen as intractable health problems, in resource-constrained countries. For infectious disease, nutrition, and social issues that are enormous problems in the developing world, digital tools can enable fundamental epidemiology research, and begin to overcome persistent problems of unequal access to healthcare.

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