Last week at the International Conference on Clinical Trials for Alzheimer’s Disease in San Diego, Akili and Pfizer presented findings about a new, non-invasive method of screening patients for Alzheimer’s disease.
Akili is known for developing software-based therapeutics for neurological disorders licensed from the lab of Dr. Adam Gazzaley at the University of California, San Francisco. Over the past year, the company made headlines with Project Evo, a tablet-based treatment program that exercises and strengthens sensory processing skills in pediatric patients suffering from ADHD.
Data from a recent study run in collaboration with Pfizer suggests that the platform might also provide a non-invasive method for screening for Alzheimer’s in patients that are asymptomatic or in early stages of the disease. In the study, Akili’s technology detected a statistically significant difference between participants with and without brain amyloidosis, the primary biomarker for Alzheimer’s risk.
If their digital biomarkers prove to be as accurate as initial results suggest, Akili could provide patients with a valuable non-invasive alternative to traditional PET imaging scans, which require lumbar punctures or the administration of contrast agents.
The cognitive screening tool, which takes less than 10 minutes to administer, looks and feels very similar to their treatment products. “Our core scientific technology is centered around what would colloquially be called multitasking—making an individual process multiple, fast paced sensory and motor tasks,” explains Eddie Martucci, President and CEO of Akili. “We still leverage gaming interfaces and we deploy our sensory stimulus management—rapid and conflicting sensory and motor stimulus—but in very short bites and a different interface than our treatment products.”
The product is downloadable and tablet based, which lends itself to screening in the home, at the clinic, and anywhere in between. With new drugs anticipated to hit the market in the coming months and years, diagnosing early disease patients at scale will hopefully help more patients seek available treatments when they are still asymptomatic.
Abby Ballou is the managing editor of MedTech Boston. She has a B.A. and M.Phil in English literature from NYU and the CUNY Graduate Center, respectively. When she isn’t writing and editing for MedTech Boston, Abby enjoys reading, rock climbing, watching classic movies and listening to opera.
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