Cue Health to develop Omicron genotyping COVID-19 test and other digital health briefs

Diagnostic company Cue Health announced on Thursday that it will create an Omicron-genotyping COVID-19 test.

The test will be used in professional care settings to specifically detect the Omicron variant in nasal samples. The work is part of a partnership with HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). 

“An Omicron-specific test will assist clinicians in providing patients better treatment options and containment strategies at the time of a positive diagnosis,” Ayub Khattak, Cue’s cofounder and CEO, said in a statement.

“We are proud to partner with BARDA to develop this new test, which will help eliminate guesswork, provide more choices for patients and strengthen public health outcomes for communities.”

Cue, whose molecular COVID-19 test received emergency use authorization for at-home use in March last year, hit the public markets in late September. The company has been working with BARDA since 2018.

Medicare Advantage insurer Zing Health is partnering with senior care and companionship company Papa to offer its support services to plan members.

Companions, called “Papa Pals,” can help seniors with grocery shopping, meal prep, light housekeeping, transportation and other social needs. The company also teamed up with Uber Health and Milliman HealthIO last year. 

“Not only are they providing social support, but these Papa Pals are building a rapport and a relationship with our members,” Dr. Trent Haywood, chief medical officer at Zing Health, said in a statement. “Companions are having conversations related to their healthcare and may be able to identify tripping hazards and other health risks.”

In November, Papa announced a whopping $150 million Series D funding round, boosting its valuation to $1.4 billion. 

Alphabet’s life sciences arm Verily and biopharma company Sosei Heptares announced a research collaboration to discover new drug candidates for immune-mediated diseases.

The partnership will combine Verily’s immune-profiling platform with Sosei Heptares’ G-protein-coupled-receptors structure-based drug-design capabilities. 

“We recognize Sosei Heptares as a leader in targeting GPCRs, one of the most valuable families of protein targets to date. Our complementary expertise in data-driven prioritization of novel therapeutic targets and expertise in GPCR drug development make for a perfect match to accelerate the development of future therapeutic options for patients suffering with immune-mediated disease,” Verily chief medical officer Jessica Mega said in a statement.

Pharma-focused digital health accelerator PharmStars is accepting applications for its spring cohort, which focuses on neurological diseases.

Startups with products focused on the diagnosis, treatment or care of neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and depression can apply to join the accelerator by Feb. 4. PharmStars, which focuses on building relationships between life science companies and digital health startups, wrapped up its inaugural cohort at the end of last year. 

“We look forward to building upon the success and momentum of our fall 2021 cohort to support a new cohort this spring,” Naomi Fried, PharmStars’ founder and CEO, said in a statement.

“We will select, educate and mentor a new cohort of the best and brightest digital health startups, helping them partner with our pharma members to address important unmet needs in neurology.”

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