Boston-Based Digital Medicine Company Gains Two New Biopharmaceutical Investors

With the help of two new investors, digital medicine company Akili Interactive Labs, Inc. is one step closer to its goal of creating scalable digital treatments for patients around the country.

The Boston company raised an additional $11.9 million in Series B financing last week, bringing the total funding for the round to $42.4 million. The two new investors, Amsterdam’s Merck Ventures and California-based Amgen Ventures, double Akili’s number of biopharmaceutical partnerships, according to a statement from Akili.

Eddie Martucci, CEO of Akili, said these organizations bring the “perspective of a pharmaceutical company” to the plans already created by Akili’s experts. Their hope is that one day, doctors will have the option of prescribing their software-based therapeutics in much the same way that they currently prescribe pharmaceuticals.

“Both of these organizations … have built up over the past year some pretty serious infrastructure,” Martucci said in a phone interview. “[They have a] focus in digital and wanting to apply digital across their pipeline.”

Founded in 2011, Akili now has two offices, one in Boston and one in San Francisco.

The latest funding addition will help Akili with its phase 3 program, launched earlier this year, which is a randomized control trial, pivotal in getting clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration. Martucci said they could get that clearance as early as the end of 2017.

Photo courtesy of Akili

Photo courtesy of Akili

The trial is focused on children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, using Akili’s product, Project: Evo, to both diagnose neurological conditions and improve a person’s core neurological abilities. The data released last year from phase 2 of the trial was positive, and Martucci is hopeful phase 3 will be the same or better.

Beyond their work in pediatric ADHD, Martucci said the company aims to expand Project:Evo to treat other disabilities or diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. He added that funding and support from biopharmaceutical companies will help in their mission to achieve this.

“In our minds, with this type of digital medicine, where no one’s done it before, you really don’t know until you try,” he said.

In addition to Project: Evo, Akili is also working on a monitor program, which would allow patients to take a 5-7-minute assessment to test their cognitive abilities through tasks in their daily life.

Patients would be able to use the system as many times a day as they prefer, and they would receive “ultra-frequent data points on” their “cognition in the real world,” Martucci said.

Roel Bulthuis, managing director of M Ventures, the United States branch of Merck, said in a statement that digital medicine is the “next frontier in healthcare,” and their company is excited to play a role.

“We’re committed to helping bring digital into mainstream biopharma for a variety of patient and clinical needs,” she said. “We see the medical segment within digital health growing rapidly, so we’re engaging with pioneering strategic partners like Akili to help advance this new category of medicine.”

As the programs expand into other treatments, Martucci said, he also hopes they will expand geographically, helping patients and doctors around the country or the world.

“One of the benefits of digital medicine and what we’re developing is that scalability and accessibility,” he said. “We all believe that 15 years from now, every doctor … will have an option to prescribe their patients something that is digital.”

“We hope to obviously be a huge part in that.”

Felicia Gans

Felicia Gans

    Felicia Gans is an editorial intern at MedTech Boston. She will be a senior this fall at Boston University, where she is studying journalism, political science, and computer science. When she's not working, Felicia loves drinking coffee, jamming out to Broadway music, and reading the news.

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