Friday Five: The week’s top digital health news and views (9 April 2021)

What docs think of ADHD digital therapies; Akili explores use of video game DTx for COVID brain fog; AstraZeneca pilots AMAZE; venture investments skyrocket in Q1; SPAC backs Better Therapeutics.


Some distance to go to embed digital solutions in ADHD treatment protocol

The results from last week’s physician poll on digital therapies for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are in, and it looks like there is more work to be done to convince the clinical community to adopt these non-pharma solutions. Top-line findings from our showed, among other things, that more than half of our 95 general practitioner respondents from the US and Europe rated themselves as not having any or little knowledge of ADHD digital therapies, whether they are neurostimulation-based treatments or app-based digital therapeutics (see graph). That said, there is encouraging feedback - specifically for Akili Interactive’s EndeavorRx video game-based ADHD therapy - indicating that physicians are open to considering including these digital solutions as either first-line standalone treatment for this condition or as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy. For full details of our results see Physician Views Results: EU GPs more open to adding digital therapies to ADHD armamentarium.


Akili explores potential of DTx to treat COVID brain fog 

ADHD isn’t the only therapy area where Akili is applying its Selective Stimulus Management Engine (SSME) technology which is at the core of EndeavorRx. In addition to depression, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and many other behavioural and central nervous system disorder, Akili is now looking to tackle COVID brain fog as well. The company has teamed up with Weill Cornell Medicine, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center to evaluate its video game-based digital therapeutic in improving attention function in people who experience cognitive dysfunction after recovering from COVID-19. The firm will start recruiting participants for two randomised clinical trials next month. According to Akili’s website, the company has ongoing trials assessing the SSME technology for cognitive impairment associated with cancer and HIV.  


MassGen to pilot AstraZeneca’s new chronic condition management platform

Just a month after launching AMAZE, AstraZeneca is now conducting pilot trials of its chronic disease management platform in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital. The pharma firm had developed AMAZE using BrightInsight’s platform that allows digital health tools - algorithms, apps, devices etc - to be built more quickly. AMAZE includes a patient app and clinician dashboard and is designed to identify at-risk individuals through remote monitoring and deliver insights to the clinician at the point of care. MassGen and AstraZeneca will initially use AMAZE in studies for heart failure and asthma management, with plans to expand it across multiple chronic disease areas.


VC investments rocket in Q1 with March boom

It seems like venture investors can’t get enough of digital health, with March’s deal volume and value surpassing January and February levels by a long distance. Last month saw more than $4 billion in venture dollars raised, resulting in Q1’s tally leaping past $7.8 billion. There was a glut of mega-buck rounds of $100 million-plus in March, with Ro’s $500 million series D topping the list of high-flyers. Notably, the most prolific investor in the Q1, Tiger Global Management, was most active in March, participating in six fundraises that month alone. To get more details of the VC deal flow and also view the digital health investor landscape, see Spotlight On: VC deal flow - March brings rocket fuel to Q1 deal value and Spotlight On: VC deal flow - who are Q1’s biggest investors?


Better Therapeutics goes down SPAC route to raise capital

The flow of SPAC deals may have slowed down, as noted last month, but it hasn’t stopped healthtech companies choosing to take this route to raise cash. Better Therapeutics, a prescription digital therapeutics firm targeting cardiometabolic diseases, has agreed to merge with Mountain Crest Acquisition, thus giving the former access to the Nasdaq as well as to nearly $113 million in cash proceeds. The transaction is expected to close this summer and will give Better Therapeutics an enterprise value of $187 million - significantly more modest than previous SPAC-merged healthtech companies (most of which have an enterprise value of over $1 billion). Better Therapeutics said it will use the cash proceeds to advance its type 2 diabetes treatment candidate BT-001 toward FDA marketing authorisation, among other things.


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