The Revolution in Cardiac Care

More than 1,300 cardiovascular leaders convened in Boston May 1-3 for the 2017 World Medical Innovation Forum.

The three-day event, which was hosted by Partners Innovation, highlighted the emerging revolution in cardiac care through the use of powerful new genomic, electronic and other tools to treat some of the most long standing and vexing challenges in modern medicine.

“The event provided an important platform for the exchange of ideas between academia and industry and highlighted some key areas where innovation could improve cardiac care,” said Michael Mahoney, chairman and CEO of Boston Scientific, the stakeholder sponsor for the event. “We’re excited about the potential for future growth in this sector and believe that many of the products in our development pipeline can play a key role in advancing patient care.”

First Look and Austen-Braunwald Award

The First Look Session opened the Forum providing attendees a chance to hear 19 early-career investigators present potentially game-changing, new approaches to cardiovascular care. Their work covered everything from using lifestyle factors to modify genetic risk for heart disease to modeling cardiovascular disease in zebrafish to using exercise to improve cardiac and cancer outcomes in cancer survivors.

Two investigators— BWH’s Ben Olenchock, MD, PhD, and MGH’s Steven Lubitz, MD —were each recipients of the $10,000 Austen-Braunwald Award in recognition of their excellent presentation and the enormous potential of their work.

Dr. Olenchock’s research focuses on developing novel mouse models of remote cardioprotection while Dr. Lubitz is investigating the genetic basis and clinical implications of atrial fibrillation.

The Role of Innovation

This year’s Forum again centered on the indispensable role that innovation plays in improving patient outcomes, enhancing device and diagnostic technologies, and improving treatments for cardiac disease. Participants also acknowledged the push-pull between the demand for affordable pricing and the need to generate additional funding to drive new innovation efforts.

“All of us as stakeholders in the community need to be thinking about new ways to both embrace innovation and embrace it at an appropriate price, which reflects the value of that innovation and enables us to continue to invest in the processes that result in new therapies,” said Robert Bradway, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Amgen.

Leaders from innovation, policy, care delivery, academia, and insurance fields discussed potential collaborative solutions to affordability as part of an engaging, hour-long discussion moderated by Peter Slavin, MD, President of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Robert Ford, Executive Vice President for Medical Devices at Abbott, said he believes the pharmaceutical and biotech industries are at a “transformative moment” when it comes to innovation and access.

“There are no more funds in the system,” Ford said. “If one product or technology gets covered, it comes at the expense of something else. So, I think we need to transform the way we are thinking about our role to not only develop innovation to improve lives but also our role more broadly in society.”

Plenary Sessions

Plenary sessions focused on a variety of key clinical issues in cardiac care, including device development and the challenges of managing atrial fibrillation, heart failure and peripheral artery disease.

In the panel discussion on peripheral artery disease, participants said one challenge in developing effective treatments is the lack of awareness about the widespread impact of the disease.

“Society has to recognize the enormity of this ailment that affects millions in this country, but unfortunately the majority of people have never heard of it,” said Douglas Drachman, MD, Director of the MGH Cardiology and Interventional Cardiology Fellowship Programs.

Fireside Chats

In one of many compelling Fireside Chats during the Forum, Robert Califf, MD, cardiologist and former Commissioner of the FDA, noted that innovation in therapeutic cardiac devices has recently outpaced the development of new drugs for cardiac patients.

One reason for the lag in drug development is that it will take a breakthrough product to top the affordable, effective therapies that are already on the market, Califf said. “For $4 a month at Walmart, [patients] can purchase a bunch of highly effective drugs for cardiovascular disease, and so you’ve got to beat stuff that really works.”

The Disruptive Dozen

The capstone event of the Forum was the announcement of the Disruptive Dozen, the 12 technologies predicted to have the greatest impact on cardiovascular care in the next decade. Click here to see the complete list.

See You Next Year

Registration for the 2018 World Medical Innovation Forum in Boston is now open. The event will take place April 23-25, 2018 and the topic will be Artificial Intelligence and foundational impact on every aspect of medicine and the business of health care.

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World Neuroscience Innovation Forum

In March, the World Neuroscience Innovation Forum was held at the Francis Crick Institute in London. The event saw senior corporate executives, top clinicians, venture investors, and leading researchers from the U.S. and Europe convene to battle Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and other neurodegenerative diseases that afflict one in six people around the world.

“Neurodegenerative and related diseases are among the greatest challenges confronting contemporary society and their enormous growth represent a potential economic cataclysm.” said Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD, Vice-Chair of Neurology, Director of Genetics and Aging Research Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School. “This global gathering of some of the world’s top neuroscience leaders catalyzed new connections, conversations and thinking around these unprecedented challenges.”

The Forum’s highly interactive panel discussions focused on topics ranging from investment priorities, to innovative therapies, to the impact of neurodegeneration on the health care system, as well as keynote sessions with lead Forum sponsors Biogen and Eli Lilly.