By

David Shaywitz

20
Sep
2021

What Should I Read? A Few Suggestions for Biotech Pros

Although we are all impossibly busy, most people I know in the biotech industry still make time to read books.  Books may sometimes have a hard time competing with flashier forms of media in the online attention economy, but they aren’t going away anytime soon. This seems especially true now that so many titles are available in audiobook form, enabling...
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15
Sep
2021

Hero Narratives Inspire Entrepreneurs But Obscure Uncomfortable Trade-Offs

In today’s Wall Street Journal, I discuss Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale, a new book by the renowned Silicon Valley entrepreneur (PayPal, LinkedIn), investor (Facebook, Airbnb), and podcast host that proposes to distill the secrets of successful business and social entrepreneurs.  The review speaks for itself, of course, but Hoffman’s account, and others like it (there are many – for...
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15
Jun
2021

After Devastating New Study, Is There A Future For Workplace Wellness – And Has Peloton Figured It Out?

This is a story about the tension between what we desperately want to believe and what the data suggest we should believe, and — surprise! — this isn’t about the contentious recent approval of the Biogen drug aducanumab for Alzheimer’s Disease. Rather, it’s about a powerful and important study just published in Health Affairs, examining the outcomes of a workplace wellness program in a...
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27
May
2021

From Fitness To Flourish: Expanding the Scope of Digital Exercise

Sometimes the most relevant digital health companies have the least elaborate technology. More than a decade ago, I discussed UpToDate, a fairly basic medicine e-textbook, served through a web-based app. It was then, and still remains, a go-to site for timely, high-quality medical information relevant to clinicians. There’s nothing fancy about it, it just works. Recently, I discovered a similar...
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15
May
2021

Learning From Post-It: Your Solution Is Not My Problem – Except When It is

A frequent – and frequently correct – critique of entrepreneurs bearing technology is “your solution is not my problem.”  Healthcare – among many other domains, perhaps all domains – has been beset by “solutionism,” the idea that my clever technology will solve your hideously complex problem.  But perhaps it makes no more sense to instinctively reject this mindset as it...
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27
Apr
2021

Quantified Self Redux?

The first iteration of the “Quantified Self” movement largely fizzled out about five years ago. Avid self-trackers, at the time, started to worry they were drowning in data, but lacking in insight.  Today, we seem to be entering Quantified Self 2.0. Once again, an expanding assortment of consumer devices promises to measure every parameter of our health and well-being.  The...
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26
Apr
2021

Liberating Founders and Investors From Narrative Bias

We’re drawn to stories. We understand the world through stories – both the narratives we read, and those we create and develop for ourselves. It’s the very power – the unreasonable effectiveness? – of stories that also leaves us so vulnerable to deception, including self-deception. This is a key message from “Super Founders,” Ali Tamaseb’s soon-to-be-published analysis of the factors...
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2
Apr
2021

Building An Easy On-Ramp For Consumer Fitness

A comprehensive 2018 review of the scientific literature commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services reported that physical activity not only helps you “sleep better, feel better, and function better,” but also “reduces the risk of a large number of diseases and conditions,” including dementia, hypertension, diabetes, and a range of cancers. The report specifically highlights the benefits...
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28
Mar
2021

Needed: Planet Fitness for The Digital World

Digital platforms such as Peloton and Tonal have clearly learned how to use emerging technologies to cultivate healthy exercise habits and a loyal base of fitness-focused customers. These same technologies would seem ideally suited – if presented in the right way – to coax more people off the couch in the first place.  This represents an enormous health — and...
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27
Mar
2021

Digital Health: From Pharma To…Fitness?

Astute TR readers might have noticed that I’ve been writing a lot about digital fitness lately, in contrast to digital pharma.  This is deliberate, and represents an evolution of my thinking. I was first drawn to digital health over a decade ago, in the context of a translational medicine training program for medical scientists that I developed with Dr. Denny...
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25
Mar
2021

Can Digital Fitness Extend Beyond Hardy Base To Reach Those Who May Benefit Most?

Whether you are an “exercist,” who relentlessly talks up the benefits of regular exercise to anyone who will listen, or instead are like the vast majority of people and conscientiously avoid exercise, you will find something appealing in the recently published Exercised, by Harvard anthropologist Daniel Lieberman. Those who assiduously avoid unnecessary exertion – pretty much the definition of exercise...
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20
Mar
2021

Enticing Some With Social Cues, Others With Health, Exercise Rewards Body And Mind

I recently discussed the rise of digital fitness, and specifically how companies like Peloton are succeeding by delivering an engaging experience. The new crop of digital fitness companies have figured out how to make health-promoting activities that are intrinsically tedious – like riding a stationary bike – into something compelling and sustaining. A New York Times writer, Amanda Hess, captures...
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16
Mar
2021

Why Digital Fitness Companies Like Peloton and Tonal Are Exciting For Healthcare

A truism in healthcare is that a medicine only works if it’s taken. Unfortunately, many people don’t take the medicines they are prescribed. Adherence rates for many drugs – especially for preventive medicines like statins – tends to be remarkably low, as I’ve discussed in the New York Times.  About half of patients who start taking statins to reduce their...
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4
Mar
2021

What Pharma Data Scientists Can Learn from SpaceX, Health System Barriers, & the FDA

Three quick data science items: 1) How pharma companies could engage more constructively with data scientists. 2) How health system barriers to data sharing inhibit robust evaluation of the underlying science. 3) The savvy way the FDA is thinking about data science. Learning From SpaceX On Wednesday, Elon Musk’s SpaceX landed a prototype spacecraft vertically on the ground — a...
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27
Feb
2021

Digital Tools Helped Enable COVID-19 Vaccine Trials. What are the Lessons Learned?

Digital tools played a critical role in accelerating the development and evaluation of COVID-19 vaccines, according to leaders at the companies driving this effort.  Speaking at a recent virtual panel discussion organized by the Galien Foundation (and available here), leaders from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Moderna, and the CRO IQVIA shared their experiences leveraging digital tools for vaccine development. Data Deluge...
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5
Feb
2021

Scientists Love Data – And Data Reveal Most People Prefer Anecdotes

The unreasonable effectiveness of personal narrative – and what it means for persuasion and health The goal of “alternative facts,” is “to flood the zone with sh*t,” as former Trump advisor Steve Bannon notoriously explained to the author Michael Lewis. The idea is to persuade us it’s just too difficult to know what to believe about anything.  This “manufactured nihilism,”...
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