COVID-19 is Testing the World

This post first appeared as an issue of the a16z Bio Newsletter. Subscribe to stay on top of the latest trends in bio and healthcare.


  • How we are staying up to date with COVID-19: Reliable resources in these unpredictable times
  • Virtual medicine’s mainstream moment: Adoption and development get a big push
  • Coronavirus tests—what we have and what we need: What diagnostic tests measure and how
  • Speed of innovation vs safety: Balancing and integrating RCT and RWE
  • The fight over electronic health data—the sequel: New HHS rules free up patient data


How we are staying up to date with COVID-10

Right now, accurate and reliable information is absolutely essential. We are maintaining a list of select Coronavirus Resources & Readings, which we use to keep up to date with the latest information, the response, and the global impact. We hope you’ll find it useful too.

Virtual medicine’s mainstream moment

As the COVID-19 epidemic continues to spread, so does the strain on the healthcare system. Virtual medicine, aka “telemedicine,” has been slowly gaining traction in recent years with both providers and consumers. But thanks to the novel coronavirus, the demand has skyrocketed overnight. With most of us sheltering in place and aiming to minimize contact between potentially infected individuals, virtual care is now the first stop for many seeking healthcare. 

In this podcast, a16z general partners Julie Yoo and Vijay Pande discuss with Hanne Tidnam how virtual medicine gives us an opportunity to rethink and re-engineer how care is delivered. What it is good at, what are the current limitations, what’s changing, what needs to change… and where could it eventually go one day? 


Coronavirus testwhat we have and what we need

We’ve been hearing about lab tests nonstop the past few weeks—tests from the CDC, tests from various companies, tests from abroad—as it’s important in diagnosing, eventually easing social distancing guidelines, and transitioning our economy back to business as usual. COVID-19 has cast a light on just how fractured and varied the diagnostics landscape is, with many different methods, facilities, and access points for testing, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. In this blog post, deal partner Judy Savitskaya and general partner Jorge Conde break down what’s actually happening inside these tests—such as the differences between tests that look for active infections, and those which can tell us whether a patient has ever been infected and is now immune—and provide a glimpse into innovative technologies in development for the future. 

RELATED: Also check out this podcast with Dave King, executive chairman of one of the largest clinical lab networks in the world (with Jorge Conde and Hanne Tidnam), to learn more about how new tests, and technologies, are integrated—as well as where the modern lab itself is going (will it be unbundled?).


Speed of innovation vs safety

If the best way to know whether a medicine is safe and effective is through a randomized controlled trial (RCT) and clinical trials, then where does (and doesn’t) real-world data and real-world evidence (RWE) come in? The topic is especially heated lately given recent concerns and claims around particular drugs in the context of the novel coronavirus pandemic. So in this 16-ish minutes episode and tweetstorm, general partner Vijay Pande breaks down the debate between RWE vs. RCT in conversation with Sonal Chokshi. Is it a tradeoff between speed and safety, or is that a false dichotomy altogether? How has, and could, the role of the FDA and payors evolve here? 


The fight over electronic health datathe sequel

In last month’s newsletter, we discussed EPIC’s “letter heard around the healthcare world” opposing the proposed draft rules from the Department of Health and Human Services regarding liquidity, interoperability, and portability in healthcare data. This month, these rules became official. In this episode of our news show 16 Minutes, a16z’s General Partner Julie Yoo and Venkat Mocherla discuss with Sonal Chokshi the content of the rules; what they mean for hospitals—particularly in this critical time in healthcare; the implications for providers and payers; security concerns; and opportunities for startups and incumbents in this space.



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