US Regulators Fast-track Novel Leukemia Therapy at Penn

U.S. regulators put an experimental immunotherapy agent on the fast track to market approval, after 89 percent of leukemia patients in early trials saw their cancer disappear.

The personalized immunotherapy known as CTL019 was developed by the University of Pennsylvania and was designated as a “breakthrough therapy” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This means the experimental therapy will benefit from a speedier than average review process and will get extra attention from the FDA toward development for market. It is the first cancer immunotherapy to receive the breakthrough designation, and only the fifth biologic agent so far. The approach works by extracting a patient’s T-cells, then genetically programming them in the lab to target cancer cells that produce a protein called CD19. The altered T-cells are then re-injected into the patient’s body, where they multiply and attack cancer.

Researchers reported last year that of 27 patients, including 22 children and five adults, with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, 89 percent had a complete response to the therapy, meaning their cancer became undetectable.

In addition to the ongoing trials for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, trials using CTL019 began in the summer of 2010 in patients with relapsed and refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

It is also being tried in patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma. More research is also under way into therapies for mesothelioma, ovarian, breast and pancreatic cancers.

Virtua Named Among “Most Wired” In the Nation

Virtua’s excellence in technology earned official recognition as one of the 2014 Most Wired hospitals, a status achieved by only 375 of the nearly 6,000 registered hospitals in the country.

Information Technology (IT) at Virtua plays a part in every aspect of caring for patients to assure quality, safety and the highest level care. With Health Information Exchange (HIE) and various analytical and care-coordination technologies, Virtua is implementing the technological capabilities needed in the future as the health care industry is restructured to meet the emerging requirements of national health care reform.

“Virtua recognized the evolution of advanced technology as crucial to patient care and efficient operations, and made an early commitment to invest the funds necessary to establish a robust program,” said Virtua CEO Richard P. Miller. “We are honored to receive this award as recognition to Virtua’s commitment to patient quality, safety and access to care.”

To achieve the Most Wired designation, Virtua had to meet specific requirements in each of four focus areas:

  • Infrastructure
  • Business and administrative management
  • Clinical quality and safety (inpatient and outpatient)
  • Clinical integration (ambulatory/physician/patient/community)

Virtua joins 67 percent of Most Wired hospitals that share critical patient information electronically with specialists and other care providers. Among Most Wired hospitals, 81 percent of medications are matched to the patient, nurse and order via bar code technology at the bedside. Sixty-nine percent of Most Wired hospitals use tools for analysis of clinical and administrative data to identify areas for improving the quality of care, simplifying workflows, offering a better overall experience for users and reducing the cost of care delivered.

2014 CONVERGE Summit for Healthcare Innovation in Philadelphia

Healthcare innovation leaders from throughout the nation met in Philadelphia this month at MedCity’s third annual CONVERGE Summit. The MedCity summit convenes thought leaders from all sectors of the health care industry such as insurers, physicians, hospitals, medtech, pharma, digital health, startups and investors with the shared goal to understand the future of health care innovation and leading trends.

During the summit, Tandigm Health President and CEO Anthony Coletta, M.D., discussed how the Greater Philadelphia region has begun embracing physician-led coordinated care models to help improve quality, reduce excess waste, costs, and inefficiencies in the health system. Tandigm Health, is a unique joint venture, based in Philadelphia, that will help deliver high-quality, affordable care to the region by combining the expertise of Independence Blue Cross—and a nationally recognized pioneer of physician-centric coordinated care—California-based HealthCare Partners, a division of DaVita HealthCare Partners

Manufacturing in Greater Philadelphia Sees Fastest Gain in Three Years

In July, manufacturing in Greater Philadelphia expanded at its fastest pace in more than three years, as new orders, shipments, and hiring all rose.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its index of regional factory activity rose to 23.9 in July from 17.8 in June. July’s figure is the highest since March 2011, and is much higher than last year’s average of 6.4. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia report suggests that U.S. manufacturing output continued to grow in July and will also boost growth in the third quarter.

Read more here.

University of Pennsylvania Establishes Penn Center for Innovation

University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann announced the launch of the Penn Center for Innovation, a new initiative that will provide the infrastructure, leadership and resources needed to transfer promising Penn inventions and related assets into the marketplace.

“The Penn Center for Innovation will maximize our mission as a research university of putting knowledge into practice for the good of our community and society,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “‘Pennovation’—our ability to advance both basic discovery and the society-improving applications those discoveries enable—makes Penn a leader in this vitally important field. The Penn Center for Innovation also will transform our region’s capacity to support an ecosystem of innovative entrepreneurs, companies and workers all making essential contributions to our collective economic future.”

The Penn Center for Innovation consolidates and unifies the University’s Center for Technology Transfer with other campus organizations devoted to the commercial advancement of University research and development, allowing for a more streamlined experience for Penn researchers and potential business and industry partners.

In 2007, Penn established the UPstart Company Formation Program, a model for University venture creation. UPstart now boasts a portfolio of over 50 companies, including Nelum Sciences, which develops transparent coatings that keep solar panels clean; CytoVas, developing high-throughput diagnostic tests for patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease; Graphene Frontiers, commercial scale production of high quality graphene sheets; and RightCare Solutions, which produces software packages designed to ensure patients are healthy enough to leave the hospital before they are discharged.

Amazon to add 500 full-time employees

Amazon.com is hiring hundreds of employees at its Middletown, Delaware site in New Castle County.

The News Journal reported the added positions will boost employment at the Middletown site to 2,000.

Amazon opened the fulfillment center with incentives from the state and the Town of Middletown in 2012.

Health Systems First To Combine Radiology, EHR

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Virtua, a southern New Jersey health system, have unified their radiology operations across electronic health records systems and state lines.

By deeply integrating imaging systems and EHRs, the two systems have made it possible to create an integrated health record that includes images captured at a Virtua facility and read by pediatric diagnostic imaging specialists at CHOP.

“One of our guiding principles for the partnership was that when the patient family needs radiology services, they could be done either at CHOP or done at Virtua,” says Gayle Stidsen-Smith, the CHOP IT director who oversees support for its picture archiving system and served as CHOP’s project lead. “We wanted to make it so New Jersey patients could have images done in their own backyard. Those images would reside in both the Virtua electronic medical record as well as the CHOP medical record, even though they’re completely different systems with different database structures.”

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Philadelphia is the New Go-To Place for Israeli Startups

Silicon Valley is touted as the tech capital of the U.S. but Philadelphia is fighting for second place according to an article that appeared in the Jerusalem Post. The article, written by a journalist that participated in Select Greater Philadelphia’s media high-tech tour, talks about the growing tech sector in Philadelphia and how Israeli entrepreneurs are looking to take advantage of opportunities in this region hoping to break into the U.S. market. Read the story: Fertile ground. Has Philadelphia become the new focus for Israeli startups?