December 2018, Volume XXXII, No 9


University of Minnesota Teams Up to Commercialize Technology for Early Detection of Alzheimer’s

A collaboration and licensing agreement between the University of Minnesota and medical imaging company RetiSpec will allow the company to further develop and bring to market a University-developed technology for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.

Through the collaboration, Toronto, Canada-based startup RetiSpec will gain exclusive access to the imaging system developed by researchers in the Center for Drug Design (CDD) in the University’s College of Pharmacy and licensed through U of M Technology Commercialization. The organizations say this will allow RetiSpec to expand its technical knowledge base and accelerate time-to-market for a commercially viable screening tool for Alzheimer’s disease.

The system, which has been confirmed in preclinical studies and a human pilot study, scans a patient’s eye to detect small quantities of a protein called beta amyloid long before they collect in large enough clusters to form plaques in the brain, which is a biological sign of Alzheimer’s disease progression.

“This is the first diagnostic method developed to detect signs of Alzheimer’s well before plaques form in the brain and patients begin to exhibit the outwardly observable symptoms of this devastating disease, such as disorientation and memory loss,” said Robert Vince, PhD, one of three CDD researchers who developed the system. “We are excited by the potential early detection holds in giving existing treatments the best chance of success and opening the doors to the development of new drug therapies.”

In preclinical studies at the University, the system detected Alzheimer’s disease in mice 25 percent sooner than methods based on visible plaque formation. In addition, a recent successful pilot clinical study demonstrated the capabilities of the technology, with 31 human participants both with and without Alzheimer’s.

Next, RetiSpec will integrate the early detection technology into its own machine learning platform, allowing it to perform data analysis as it tests the combined technologies in diagnosing Alzheimer’s during an upcoming three-site clinical trial.

Tool Will Provide Real-Time Information to Improve Opioid Overdose Prevention Efforts

A new initiative has launched in Hennepin County that will link first responders on scene to a mapping tool in which they can enter real-time information about suspected overdoses. The tool, called OD MAP, will make this information available to analysts and other response personnel so they can track suspected overdoses more accurately, detect spikes in geographical areas, and create strategic response plans.

The tool allows first responders to quickly enter important data into the system by identifying whether or not an incident was fatal or non-fatal, and whether or not naloxone was administered. No personal identifying information is entered, and the data is not meant to be used for investigations. The goal is to use it as a prevention and education tool that will allow first responders to focus drug prevention outreach in areas that are being most affected by the opioid epidemic.

According to the Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, the tool will allow them to access this information much faster than they are able to currently, which can take weeks or months.

“I believe that OD MAP will be our biggest step forward in the fight against the opioid epidemic, providing first responders with information we have never had access to before,” said Stanek. “Our current data can take weeks or months to gather, but this will provide missing information regarding the trends happening this week, or even during the last 24 hours. With this

real-time information, I believe our agencies can begin to curb opioid overdoses before the 911 call is ever made.”

Funding Awards Will Support Learning Health Systems Researchers

A Minnesota-based program is one of 11 institutions selected to receive a total of $40 million in awards over five years from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to support the training of researchers to conduct patient-centered outcomes research within learning health systems (LHS).

The Minnesota Learning Health System Mentored Career Development Program (MN-LHS), a collaboration between the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, and Hennepin Health, is one of the new LHS Centers of Excellence. MN-LHS is designed to train health care practice-embedded researchers who will systematically generate, adopt, and apply evidence quickly to improve personalization, quality, equity, and outcomes of care. The purpose of the program is to create a dynamic training environment for scholars to learn in, and meaningfully improve, health care systems serving children, the elderly, underrepresented minorities, rural populations, veterans, and those with multimorbidity.

“The researchers supported by this initiative will support efforts to bring health care systems, clinicians, and patients fully into the process of developing the data needed to better support personalized medical decision-making,” said Joe Selby, MD, MPH, executive director of PCORI. “The ultimate goal for PCORI and AHRQ is to bring rigorous science to produce generalizable evidence that improves the quality of care and the health of individuals, both within and beyond these centers of excellence.”

Shriners, Gillette Expand Collaboration

Shriners Hospitals for Children–Twin Cities and Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare are expanding their collaboration for treatment of children with orthopedic and neuromuscular conditions. The two organizations, which will remain independent, have worked together since the 1920s and are now expanding the collaboration into surgery and inpatient care.

In November, Shriners Hospitals for Children–Twin Cities began performing the majority of their surgeries and inpatient stays at Gillette. Patients of Shriners Hospitals for Children–Twin Cities continue to receive outpatient services including physician visits, child life, radiology exams, rehabilitation, orthotics, and prosthetics at the Shriners location in Minneapolis.

The move follows nationwide trends away from inpatient care. Shriners will eliminate 35 full time positions and will no longer be a full-service hospital after the change goes into effect.

Partnership Brings Expanded Cardiac Services to Brainerd Lakes Area

Essentia Health is partnering with the Minneapolis Heart Institute to expand cardiac care in the Brainerd lakes area. Specialists from the Minneapolis Heart Institute have begun working at the Marilyn Covey Heart & Vascular Center at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd.

In addition, the Minneapolis Heart Institute will be adding to existing Essentia Health services through in-person and telecare consultations at Essentia Health St.

Joseph’s–Brainerd Clinic. Patients will be able to consult with subspecialties in areas such as electrophysiology, advanced heart failure, cardiothoracic surgery, vascular disease, and valve and structural heart disease. They can begin making appointments at the Brainerd clinic in late October.

Mayo Clinic Locations in Waseca And Fairmont Expanding Services

Two Mayo Clinic locations are expanding services to better meet the needs of their respective communities.

Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont opened its new urgent care department on Nov. 2, when it also discontinued operations at The Clinic at Walmart as part of Mayo Clinic Health System’s transition plan announced in May.

“Urgent care allows our patients access to additional same-day care right here in Fairmont,” said Marie Morris, MD, medical director of Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont. “We’re able to treat patients of all ages and those with slightly more complex needs in the urgent care setting. The Clinic at Walmart didn’t provide as many treatment options for patients and had certain age restrictions.”

In addition, Mayo Clinic Health System in Waseca is expanding its family medicine practice, planning to add a significant number of same-day family medicine appointments as well as new providers to its primary care team as of Dec. 23. In effect, Mayo Clinic says its Waseca location will transition away from urgent care to accommodate the new family medicine model. As part of the transition, weekend urgent care services were discontinued in mid-October, but weekday services will remain available through Dec. 21.

Construction Begins on Ridgeview’s New Emergency Center in Waconia

Ridgeview Medical Center broke ground in late October on its new Norman and Ann Hoffman Emergency Center on its Waconia campus. The $18.8 million, 23,000-square-foot remodel and emergency department expansion is slated for completion in 2020.

“This is one of the most exciting and important improvements we will make to Ridgeview’s Waconia campus,” said Mike Phelps, president and CEO of Ridgeview Medical Center. “Ridgeview and the community are deeply grateful to Norman and Ann Hoffman for their lead gift to make this significant project possible.”

The expansion will include improved patient experience and privacy, increased treatment and support space, eight observation rooms, four behavioral health emergency department rooms, and space for cardiac/pulmonary rehabilitation services.

Allina to Open Third Clinic Location in Uptown

Allina Health is planning to open a third clinic in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. The 11,000-square-foot clinic will offer primary care, mental health care, and women’s health services.

Allina extensively renovated another location in the neighborhood, the Isles Clinic, last summer. It also operates a clinic in the Uptown Row building on Lake Street. The new clinic will be located on the second floor of Calhoun Village at 3200 W. Lake St. and open in spring of 2019.


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Allina extensively renovated another location in the neighborhood, the Isles Clinic, last summer. It also operates a clinic in the Uptown Row building on Lake Street. The new clinic will be located on the second floor of Calhoun Village at 3200 W. Lake St. and open in spring of 2019.