French pharmaceutical company Sanofi has announced that it is entering the "beyond drug" sector - support for drug prescriptions with a digital envelope. Its partner will be Happify Health, founded by Israelis in the US.
The first products are designed to treat patients suffering from depression and multiple sclerosis patients. The idea is for these products to be approved for marketing as drugs after undergoing clinical trials in combination with the drug and the ability of the applications to improve the situation of the patients is proven.
Roy Saar from Israeli fund Mangrove Capital Partners, one of the first investors in Happify, explains, "Digital therapeutics is a sector of digital products with a drug-like effect. What Happify does is to gamify the exercises that patients can perform in order to reduce their depression and improve their mood.
"Happify has shown that it creates digital interactions that improve the patient's situation as measured by the depression indices accepted in the medical community. Employers initially bought the product for their employees and insurance companies for their clients." At the same time, the product is available to private patients on the company's website.
Saar says that digital therapeutics (DTx) is the next step for technology, with the direct customer in this case being the drug company. Companies use the product to improve the success of the medical treatment that they provide and create differentiation from other medical treatments, but the drug companies have another interest - prolonging their patents.
"When the drug companies integrate a digital application with their drug treatment and the integrated treatment improves the patient's situation (more than either the drug or the application separately), they can register the treatment as a new product and obtain further exclusive protection for it," Saar explains. This is what interests the drug companies, because, as Saar puts it, "In multiple sclerosis, depressed patients don't respond as well to treatment. When the patient is less depressed, the drug has a better effect."
Sanofi said that it hopes that the product will affect not only the depression of multiple sclerosis patients, but also the development of their disease.
DTx includes not only improvement of depression or anxiety among patients in order to improve the drug's activity; it also improves the patients' response to the drug regime, managing nutrition together with a drug regime, monitoring side effects and handling them, etc.
Commenting on the deal, Sanofi said that in the first stage, the company would deal with the integration of drugs with digital products, and in the next stage would consider developing medical digital treatments that do not necessarily depend on being combined with a drug.
Other companies in the DTx sector include Click Therapeutics, another company that treats depression. Click Therapeutics' product is in advanced clinical trials for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The leading products of another company, Pear Therapeutics, treat drug addiction and schizophrenia.
Happify was founded in 2012 by CEO Tomer Ben-Kiki, president Ofer Leidner, and Andy Parsons. The company has raised $25.5 million to date in seven financing rounds, among others from Marketplace Funds Venture Capital, TTCP, Founder Collective, Bridge Builders Collaborative, Thylacine Capital, and Mangrove, known as one of the first investors in companies like Wix and Walkme.
Happify has signed agreements with companies for their employees and with insurance companies for their clients. It product currently has tens of thousands of users, most of them through such agreements, but also some directly with the company.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 21, 2019
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