Episode 8: Michael Annichine Notes

 
 

Michael Annichine is the CEO of Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation (MWRIF), the largest research institute in the U.S. focused on the health of women and infants.  The research institute, with collaborations around the world, is home to hundreds of world-class researchers who have devoted their careers to women’s health and reproductive biology. Its research spans a woman’s lifetime from nine months to 90+ years.

Michael also leads the development campaigns that sustain programs and research within Magee-Womens Hospital, and MWRIF. Under Michael’s leadership, MWRIF is significantly expanding its revenue base and capitalizing on the significant translational impact of its scientific investment. 

Michael is a seasoned professional with more than 20 years’ experience starting, developing and leading local and national businesses across a variety of growth industries. Prior to his current position, Michael held the chief executive roles in C-leveled, FlyerCity Media, and CFS Home Loans, Inc. where his companies were twice named to the Inc. 1000 Fastest Growing Companies in America list. A Carnegie Mellon University alumni and former Director of Investment Programs at the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, he has had significant impact on the Pittsburgh start-up ecosystem and built strong connections and a reputation of success within the business, private equity, and venture capital communities.

 

  • What is the origin of why Magee-Womens Research Institute was started?

    • It started because it was very needed!

    • In 1990, no research done on women

      • The Office of Research was first established by the NIH in 1990

      • No research on women or differences between men and women; any gestational periods (which we all go through)

    • In 1992 Irma Goertzen started the worlds first women’s research institute at Magee Hospital

      • With 4 doctors in the basement of the hospital, Magee Womens Research Institute was initiated

  • Tell us a little about the areas of research you focus on

    • Focus on “9-90”

      • First 9 months in utero

        • Essential to understand how these first months in utero can give us insight into health and wellness for the rest of our lives

        • Certain signals/biomarkers that can give us clues on how to treat and avoid diseases 

        • The amount of plasticity that we have during this time to repair or mitigate health opportunities for the future

      • Next 90 years, broken down into 7 different chronological areas of research:

        • Reproductive Development

        • Pregnancy & Newborn Medicine

        • Infectious Diseases

        • Gynecology

        • Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

        • Women’s Cancers

        • Women’s Wellness 

    • Whether it’s “9 effecting the next 90” or it’s “part of that next 90”, we’re looking out for:

      • All aspects of female anatomy

      • All diseases that effect it

      • All ways that we can improve outcomes

  • Can you give us an example of a research study done on the gestational period that has made a difference in our health moving forward?

    • Recent big story on the news: baby diagnosed with spina bifida in utero

      • Able to diagnose and perform surgical repair in utero so baby can have normal development once born

    • We know that diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, hypertension all can be detected earlier

      • Starting to pick up on signals early on and try to understand how to mitigate these risks as we get older

  • Testing really done on men only. What does that mean for women in research?

    • It was 1993 that the FDA reversed prior guidelines from 1977 that said it was only OK to do drug testing on male animals and males

      • Don’t have the same hormonal fluctuations that women have throughout the month

      • Easier and cheaper to do the testing on men

    • Prior to 1993, no testing on women

      • Even after, companies reluctant to use women 

      • Required congress to mandate the adequate inclusion of women in all NIH sponsored clinical trials

    • There have been “near-misses”, i.e. Ambien

      • Studied on men, given to women, and the side effects were very different because of the way the drug is metabolized

    • Dosage is not just mathematical based on weight

      • Other things that go into determining safety and efficacy of a drug

  • On a scale of 1-10, where do you think we are with doing the right research on women?

    • When there is research done on women, we are the leader in the space

    • Magee Womens Summit: we want to grow the space

    • We’re maybe at a 4-5, we are really working hard and collaborating, but still a way to go

  • What new innovations are hot now / cool for women? What’s happening out there?

    • Currently working on silent disease detection platform

      • Cervical/ovarian cancers: silent killers

        • Very little pain and symptoms until late-stage disease

        • Once late stage, harder to treat

      • We’ve used NIPT technology (non-invasive prenatal testing)

        • This is a blood test

        • Came about in early 2000s to replace amniocentesis

          • Able to detect fetal blood in the maternal blood stream

        • Use the same testing to detect fatal diseases circulating in the host plasma

          • Starting to look at what goes on in the body right before a tumor is formed

          • There are signals that are present and can be detected in the plasma

            • We imagine a day when you get a physical and a blood test, and we can detect cancer before it becomes stage 1

    • Also working on a compound that localizes breast cancer

      • Many types of breast cancer, the most dangerous are those that metastasize

      • We are trying to turn this compound into a drug that stops the cancer from metastasizing

        • Something digestible so we can be breast cancer much less lethal

  • You talk about how you’re collaborating with other researchers around the world. Because of technology and sharing of information, how has that helped with research and moving it forward?

    • Heard how research and production of COVID vaccine has helped other areas of study move forward with their research

    • Interesting the sharing of information more than we have in the past

    • Hearing all sorts of “misinformation”, particularly with COVID

      • Important to tell the public: the RNA technology for the COVID vaccine has been around for 15-20 years, so it is not new and rushed

      • However, what has been developed because of this is the way to use this existing technology to come up with vaccines in a much faster format

    • General public understands the importance of research, particularly with the recent pandemic

      • Allows us to act quickly when something does come about

      • General public has more conversation with each other and with their doctor 

      • Allows them to push their health care systems to get the best and most cutting-edge treatments

  • Women are treated differently all over the world, as well as cultural differences in understanding health and wellness. What do we need to consider when treating across the cultures?

    • HIV/AIDS is a great example

      • Have had drugs in the US since 1995 that have been highly effective against HIV

      • In 2011, Science Magazine said that those that are treated for HIV can no longer pass it on

      • However, in 2019 during President Trump’s State of the Union address, he talks about how HIV is still one of the most pressing problems we have here in the U.S.

        • As an organization, we realized that if you can’t stop HIV in Africa, you can’t stop it in the US

        • Still one of the fastest spread diseases in young women in Africa

          • Translated all across the world

          • HAVE to understand cultural differences

            • How do we solve this problem when condom use cannot be negotiated or a 6k drug regimen cannot be afforded?

            • How can we use local resources to come up with local solutions for these populations?

              • We developed a female-controlled HIV prevention strategy that has stopped the spread of AIDS by 30% in clinical trials (Sharon’s Clinical Trials)

              • Created an antiviral drug that is placed on a strip and inserted into the vagina that can be used discreetly

    • Really must reach out to the community for input in how to best solve these problems 

    • When we think about how developing countries create solutions, we as a developed country need to really understand how to make our solutions broader based.

  • You research pregnancy as one unique aspect of female life, what do you focus on around pregnancy?

    • Pregnancy is tricky: effects 2 people (or really the whole family)

    • Impact of pregnancy has insight not only into the mother’s health, but also the child’s

    • Really look at the development of the fetus and the fetal outcomes

      • What markers might be present to better guide the baby through a healthy life

    • Also look at some things that could be precursors for heart disease down the road in the mother 

      • i.e. hypertension or pre-clampsia during pregnancy

      • Beginning to develop intervention strategies that we can give to a mother when she goes home to avoid heart disease from popping up down the road 

    • Pregnancy really gives us the opportunity to affect two lives

  • What goes on behind the scenes at the research institute—who decides what you’re researching? Have time limits shortened with technology? What happens from A-Z?

    • If you want behind the scenes information, he invites the podcast to Pittsburgh where we can film science and partake in science!

    • Long process for a reason: SAFETY AND EFFICACY

    • Have to be persistent and keep perspective of: this may not hit the market for 10+ years

      • But when it does, what’s the impact? How many lives can be changed?

    • First: design a trial

      • Look at something that has shown some success in a petri dish

      • Then understand what that success might look like in the body

      • Figure out how you can create something that is digestible by the body

    • We have a mommy database and biobank with lots of samples of all different types of tissues

      • Allows us to determine how drugs can act 

    • Then look for partners that have channels into the market

  • Has technology helped speed up this process?

    • It definitely has!

    • We have the summit yearly to start conversations earlier

      • Technology and innovation tends to outpace policy

      • Allows us to make innovations more widely accepted and discussed, so policy comes quicker and things can make an impact much faster 

  • As someone in the general public who tries to “do their own research”, what advice do you have for them to distinguish accurate studies?

    • Want to look to the reputable organizations:

      • Magee Womens, Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinics, Harvard, CDC, NIH etc.

    • There is a scientific process for a reason: keeps things peer-reviewed and relevant

  • What is one take away that you can share with our audience that they could start to utilize today?

    • Have a relationship and conversation with your doctor

    • Come talk to us! Stay in the know!

    • If we continue to have conversations, I think we’ll have a healthier population

      • Know what to ask, how to ask it, and what the impact of your decisions will be

    • The Women’s Health Symposium is in Naples at the Ritz Carlton Beach Resort on May 19th, 2022— come join us!