AbilityLab CEO dies at 60 • Biotech wants to make medical devices out of CO2 • Customs agents find fake vaccination cards at O’Hare

AbilityLab CEO dies at 60 • Biotech wants to make medical devices out of CO2 • Customs agents find fake vaccination cards at O’Hare

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DR. JOANNE SMITH, SHIRLEY RYAN ABILITYLAB CEO DIES OF CANCER: Dr. Joanne Smith, CEO of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, died Monday of cancer, the Streeterville-based rehabilitation hospital said Tuesday. She was 60. Smith spent three decades at the hospital, formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, which has topped U.S. News & World Report’s list of best rehabilitation hospitals every year since 1991. READ MORE.

BIOTECH IMAGINES MAKING SYRINGES OUT OF CARBON DIOXIDE: Skokie biotech company LanzaTech, known for developing a novel technology to produce renewable ethanol, is working with a California startup to create a thermoplastic polymer that can be used to make everything from medical devices to food containers.

Over the last 16 years, LanzaTech has developed a process that uses bacteria to turn carbon monoxide gases, such as industrial pollution, into ethanol. Berkeley-based Twelve, formerly known as Opus 12, uses metal catalysts to transform carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide by bubbling it through water.

The pair will partner to make polypropylene, an FDA-approved thermoplastic polymer, said LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren. READ MORE.

CUSTOMS AGENTS INTERCEPT COUNTERFEIT VACCINATION CARDS AT O’HARE: U.S. Customs & Border Protection officers in the International Mail Facility at O’Hare airport recently seized 19 counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards arriving from China, CBP said in a statement.

In August, an Oak Lawn woman was arrested in Hawaii after authorities said they became suspicious of her COVID-19 vaccine card, which had her vaccine listed as “Maderna,” not “Moderna,” the Sun-Times reported.

ICYMI: SOURCES SAY NORTHSHORE, EDWARD-ELMHURST IN TALKS TO COMBINE: Crain’s learned in August that Evanston-based NorthShore University HealthSystem is in merger talks with Warrenville-based Edward-Elmhurst Health.  A combination would create a nine-hospital network, including a behavioral health hospital, and give fast-growing NorthShore better access to patients in the western suburbs. READ MORE.

PEDIATRICIANS SAY UNITEDHEALTH PAYING HALF THE FEDERAL RATE TO GIVE VACCINES: The Itasca-based American Academy of Pediatrics is fielding complaints from providers nationwide who are frustrated that UnitedHealth Group is paying about 50% of the federal rate for vaccine administration, Dr. Sue Kressly, who chairs the AAP’s payment advocacy advisory committee and runs Pennsylvania-based Kressly Pediatrics, told our sister publication Modern Healthcare.

While UnitedHealthcare is not legally required to pay the federal rate, Kressly said the Minnetonka, Minnesota-based insurer is the only national carrier that has not agreed to pay at least $40 for vaccine administration. With new variants of COVID-19 continuing to emerge, Kressly worried that low fees for testing and vaccine administration would lead some doctors to stop offering these services, worsening the public health crisis, increasing medical costs and inspiring more independent practices to shutter, particularly as providers struggle with overwork during the pandemic.

UnitedHealthcare, for its part, said it recently offered to increase reimbursement for COVID-19 testing for some pediatric and family medicine practices that met specific criteria. When it comes to vaccines, UnitedHealthcare said it is continually reviewing its reimbursement rates.

OHIO IVERMECTIN RULING OVERTURNED: Cincinnati-area West Chester Hospital does not have to allow a physician to treat one of its patients with the controversial drug ivermectin after all.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Oster Jr. ruled Monday morning that the Ohio hospital could not be forced to allow a COVID-19 patient to be treated with ivermectin as a 14-day temporary injunction granted by another judge expired.

Oster said he had heard no clear evidence that ivermectin is effective against COVID-19 and that he must also consider the rights of the hospital. Crain’s reported last week that the Chicago-based American Medical Association has come out against the drug, which is used as an antiparasitic drug, for humans and animals.

ANTYLIA SCIENTIFIC TO SELL BIOPROCESSING BUSINESS FOR $2.9B: Vernon Hills-based life sciences product manufacturer Antylia Scientific said in a statement it will sell its Masterflex Bioprocessing business and related assets to Pennsylvania-based Avantor  for $2.9 billion.

Masterflex Bioprocessing makes peristaltic and single-use bioprocessing pumps, tubing and components, the statement said.

LOYOLA MEDICAL STUDENT WINS AMA EQUITY SCHOLARSHIP: Loyola University Chicago student Sumbul Siddiqui is the recipient of a scholarship for students who are beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program and/or a first-generation immigrant to the U.S., the Maywood medical center said in a statement.

The scholarship, the American Medical Association Foundation DREAM MD Equity Scholarship, is a $10,000 annual award, underwritten by the Vandenberg Health Equity Fund.

THE DAILY GIST—COVID STRESS WEIGHS ON HEALTH CARE WORKERS: Crain’s reporters Katherine Davis and Stephanie Goldberg joined host Amy Guth to discuss burnout in the medical sector and how one organization is trying to raise Chicago’s profile as a tech hub in order to attract more talent. LISTEN NOW.

THE CHECK UP—DISCUSSING EQUITY AND QUALITY:  Dr. Ana Pojuls McKee, executive vice president, chief medical officer and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Oak Brook-based Joint Commission, spoke with Modern Heathcare’s podcast, The Check Up, about how COVID-19 has heightened the long-standing problems in the healthcare industry over equity of care issues. LISTEN AT MODERN HEALTHCARE.

ZING HEALTH JOINS 1% PLEDGE FOR LOCAL NONPROFITS: Chicago Medicare Advantage plan Zing Health announced in a statement its participation in the Pledge 1% program. The statement said the move raises its commitment to corporate philanthropy, community engagement and STEM education.

The health care startup is pledging 1% of its profit, equity and staff time to support local nonprofit initiatives.

MICHIGAN SYSTEMS FIRM UP MERGER PLANS: Detroit-area Beaumont Health, previously involved in merger discussions with Advocate Aurora Health, and western Michigan’s Spectrum Health have signed a formal integration agreement that spells out more details on how they would combine.

The two systems hope to launch the combined health system by this fall pending regulatory approvals, called, at least temporarily, BHSH System, Crain’s Detroit Business reports.

The two systems said in June that they had signed a letter of intent to explore a merger that would create a $12 billion, 22-hospital health system with its own health insurer. The combination would also be the biggest employer in the state.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

• Carl Daley, senior vice president of retail strategy and operations of Humana, has retired from Oak Street Health’s Board of Directors, the Chicago-based Oak Street said in a statement.

Daley’s involvment as an Oak Street director stemmed from 2019’s initial investment by Humana in the network of value-based primary care centers for adults on Medicare, the statement said. 

“Given the evolution of Oak Street Health since that time, including the company’s Initial Public Offering in August 2020, Oak Street Health and Humana mutually agreed the two organizations could retain their strategic alignment without a Humana representative on the company’s board of directors,” the statement said. Daley’s retirement doesn’t signal a change in the relationship between Oak Street Health and Humana, the statement said.

• Kassie Maroney has been named chief actuary of Chicago-based Health Care Service Corp., the parent company of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.

Maroney joined HCSC more than four years ago, serving initially as divisional chief finance officer of Consumer Services and most recently as a vice president of Actuarial, HCSC said in a statement. She previously held actuarial leadership positions at Florida Blue and Aetna.

Adtalem Global Education has announced a series of executive leadership appointments Tuesday in its shift toward medical and nursing schools.

• In addition to the recent hiring of CEO Stephen Beard, James Bartholomew, currently Adtalem’s senior vice president, integration and transformation, will lead Chamberlain University as senior vice president, Chamberlain andInstitutional Shared Services.

• Dr. John Danaher, recently announced president of Adtalem Medical, adds Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine to the two medical schools he will lead. Bartholomew and Danaher will jointly succeed Kathy Boden Holland, who was group president, Adtalem Health.

• Paula Singer will continue to lead Walden University as president.

• Jeff Tognola, Walden’s chief marketing officer and senior vice president, commercial operations, will succeed Fernando Lau, Adtalem CMO, as interim Adtalem CMO while the company conducts a search for a permanent leader.

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