For finding the value of treatments that others ignored. One in six U.S. men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and the common treatment—androgen suppression therapy—can lead to depression, loss of libido, and worse. San Francisco–based Medivation discovered that highly debated androgen blockers can play a key role in battling the cancer, and the company's resulting drug, Xtandi, has been shown to extend the lives of patients in advanced stages of the disease. Speeding through FDA approval and now netting Medivation $338 million in net sales, Xtandi is currently being tested on men in the early stages of prostate cancer. Read more >>
For making DNA sequencing mass-market. By investing in more cutting-edge genome-sequencing hardware and training more analysts to make sense of reams of data output than any research institution or university in the world, BGI has turned itself into a go-to destination for global scientists seeking to collaborate on ambitious projects to unlock the mysteries of plant, animal, and human DNA. The Shenzhen, China–based institute is now the most prolific sequencer of human genomes, using technological advances to vastly reduce the cost of sequencing complete genomes, from $3 billion in 2003 to mere thousands of dollars today. Its goal is to organize the world's biological information and make it useful and accessible to all—like a biological Google. Last year, BGI acquired California-based Complete Genomics, a leading manufacturer of genome–sequencing machines, for $118 million, giving it even more firepower.
For answering the call for urgently needed medical research. Partners HealthCare has invested more than $1 billion a year in drug discovery, genetics, and information technology—effectively making it one of the premier research organizations in the world. Partners is affiliated with the most esteemed hospitals in the country, such as Brigham and Women's and Massachusetts General, and is taking the lead in its work on translating genomic advances into the nascent field of "personalized" medicine.
For using wireless and cloud technology to improve drug adherence. MediSafe's app- and cloud-synced database allows family and friends to aid in the medical care of a loved one by being alerted as to whether or not an aging father or mother, for instance, has taken their medication. This has significantly boosted prescription compliance: Last year, MediSafe revealed that Type 2 diabetic users of its technology boasted adherence rates of at least 26% higher than standard rates for long-term therapies.
For becoming the premier health care incubator on the East Coast—and arguably the United States. The co-working space in SoHo on Broome Street teams medical entrepreneurs with mentors and VCs. Functioning much like a streamlined, health care–oriented Y Combinator, Blueprint's graduates have already started several dozen diverse companies—such as smart pill-bottle maker AdhereTech—usually focusing on using IT solutions to improve doctors' efficiency, hospitals' outcomes, and patient care.
For harnessing behavioral data to save lives. Ginger.io's apps track the way patients use their phones—like patterns in communication and location—and employ a number of algorithms to alert caregivers to changes that may indicate symptoms or crises. The technology is currently being rolled out in Cincinnati Children's Hospital and in North Carolina, through the provider network Novant. To date, Ginger.io has collected more than 6 million data points from patients, which will help the company refine its technology as its customer base grows.
For providing a defense against on-the-field head injuries. ImPACT is the premier mobile app for assisting trained medical professionals in the diagnosis of concussions on the spot in school-age athletes. Four to 5 million Americans suffer head injuries every year, and an increasing percentage is composed of students who are identified through ImPACT's neurocognitive assessment tools, which include features that evaluate a player's balance and short-term memory. Impact is now expanding beyond the realm of traditional contact sports: NASCAR recently announced it will use the product for mandatory concussion testing in 2014.
For creating a built-in pain-relief platform. Some of the most chronic diseases—such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis—are due to some form of inflammation. SetPoint's technology consists of a tiny implant in the vagus nerve of the neck that, when activated, helps reduce the inflammatory reflex—the physiological response that controls inflammation—via a pathway discovered by the company's cofounder. SetPoint Medical, whose aim is to offer cheaper and less risky therapies for inflammatory diseases, is currently involved in clinical trials.
For demonstrating that the age of personalized cancer treatment has indeed begun. Foundation's first clinical product, a new genomic test known as "FoundationOne," analyzes the DNA mutations in tumors; it can therefore help doctors match specific drugs to specific cancer types, or help doctors direct patients to ongoing clinical trials for experimental treatments. Foundation's tests may also assist drug companies in creating more effective therapies. This year, the company—backed by Google Ventures and Third Rock Ventures—raised $106 million in an IPO.
For using Watson to harness big health care data. There's no denying that Big Blue's Watson supercomputer holds promise to improve health care administration and, more crucially, cancer treatment. Its medical rollout began with insurance and provider giant WellPoint (to conduct administrative reviews) and at Memorial Sloan Kettering, where it is learning the finer points of cancer treatment from the world's premier oncologists. By tapping into a nearly inexhaustible well of data to keep abreast of recent studies and trials, the computer will be able to give practitioners the keen edge of artificial intelligence to boost patient care.
[Image: Flickr user Pete]