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Ep07: Eddie Martucci Co-Founder/CEO of Akili Interactive Labs

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Transcript

00:03 Eugene: 

Welcome to the digital therapeutics edition of Digital Health Today, and I’m your host Eugene Borukhovich. On the last episode, I got to know Anand Iyer, Chief Strategy Officer WellDoc, as he was instrumental in getting the Digital Therapeutics Alliance up and running. Today, I continue with the early trailblazers of the DTx industry, Eddie Martucci, who is CEO and founder of Akili Interactive, which has taken a super interesting go to market approach.

But before we dive in, I very briefly met Eddie, at a small event during the JPMorgan conference in San Francisco years ago. Eddie’s energy and passion for the product exuded as he was holding a tablet and always gathered a crowd around him showing early versions of a game that is now an actual digital therapy. And now we’ve jumped to my conversation with Edie.

I am here with Eddie Martucci, cofounder and CEO of Akili Interactive. Welcome, Edie, and please tell our listeners a little bit of who you are. And what was the impetus to even create Akili?

01:09 Eddie: 

Yeah, thanks. I’m happy to be here, happy to talk to you. I guess, my background is really scientific in nature. I’m a research scientist by training, did a PhD in biochemistry and biophysics. Most of my colleagues in grad school went on to lead research at different drug companies or biotech. I was inspired with the translation phase, which is taking cutting edge science and moving that quickly into products.

And so I had the opportunity in the fortune to work at a place called PureTech Health, which is a really unique organization that takes cutting edge science and tries to build companies or invest in programs. And I came right at the time where you were having this digital kind of revolution in consumerism and finance, and not quite yet in health care. And so I guess, my passion for cutting edge science, and then seeing where the world is going it, you know, the two things met really clearly.

And Akili came from just a recognition that in trying to make a new type of medicine for the brain specifically, where you have these large unmet needs that have existed for decades and that molecular medicine has gotten part of the way there, but not all the way there, that technology could be the best vehicle to provide a totally new orthogonal approach.

And so that’s where we started is there’s a need, there’s a new modality, which is digital technology. And we got excited, I guess, most of our background being in therapeutic development, we got excited to say, let’s not just assist in medicine, let’s actually make the medicine through software.

02:36 Eugene: 

And that was around, I think if I looked on some of the sources, it’s about 2012, right, that’s when you guys…?

02:44 Eddie: 

Yeah, when we formally incorporated. We had been honestly looking at technologies and approaches to target the brain for, you know, I’d say, a year to 18 months before that.

02:54 Eugene: 

Okay. And so that was kind of, I would call it as almost a spin up or spin out or an investment just to for our listeners to understand the PureTech component to this?

03:03 Eddie: 

Sure. Yeah, I founded the company with folks inside PureTech. And so PureTech was the earliest shareholder and supporter and board member and we still have a great relationship. And over time, we’ve diversified our investor list, and then a couple of rounds of venture funding. And so now, we have a large minority investor sheet, which sets us up for the future.

03:25 Eugene: 

So as you were sitting there, and that was in Boston, or just to orient, geographically?

03:30 Eddie: 

Well, it was Boston. Although, if we go through the little bit of the founding, we were a multi geography company from like, the first couple employees because we were melding healthcare and technology. And so actually, one of my first employees was in San Francisco. And so we had a two coast office when I think we had three people, which is a little crazy. But…

03:52 Eugene: 

Yeah, I just wasn’t sure if I’m saying Boston, because, you know, I grew up in New York, so I wasn’t sure if I’m pronouncing it correctly. So…

03:58 Eddie:

Like for Boston, no. Well, I grew up in Connecticut, closer to you. So Boston is right [inaudible 04:02].

04:04 Eugene:

Cool. So obviously, I mean, especially when you’re doing the investment and spinning things up, there’s a business hypothesis to this, and I’m sure kind of even the words, combined digital therapeutic might have been getting on that scene as we’ve been discovering in some previous episodes. What was the original business hypothesis, right? So I think there’s a bunch of cool tech your hypothesis from 18 to 20 months beforehand, but from a purely business hypothesis perspective, what was it, and how much has it changed, if at all?

04:36 Eddie:

It’s a great question. We’re probably one of these rare startups where the core business hypothesis hasn’t changed really at all. A lot of the implementation has a lot of how we saw the business model rolling out has changed dramatically, so I can talk about that. But the core business hypothesis for us is that we said we want the software itself, in and of itself, just software, to be powerful enough that it can be a prescribable treatment. That’s it. So we found it, I think we were one of the earliest companies that said software should be the medicine, if you invest in it and find the right technology.

I think we put a stake in the ground in 2013, saying, we’re going to go try to chart down the FDA path. This is before anyone had done that and before we even talked to FDA, quite frankly, so we were a little brazen, but that was, I guess, our reason for existence, as we said. We want to create truly a new medicine category, where you have a piece of software that is being prescribed and in and of itself has efficacy, and has the type of effectiveness in patients that justifies it being used alongside any other type of medicine. That has not changed. How we think about scaling, how we think about the delivery, a lot of that has evolved over time.

05:51 Eugene: 

So I want to demystify for our listeners, because too many, digital therapeutics, you know, what is it really? So if you can maybe just describe actually, you know, how do I as a patient or health consumer, actually “consume this prescription”, right? So just walk us through the user experience of it.

06:10 Eddie:

Sure. And I’m glad you’re pausing on that, and a lot of people forget to ask that question, and then never quite have a concrete grasp of what we’re talking about. It’s also important because I think sometimes, the media, or the press can cover the lowest common denominator. In our case, it’s like, oh, it’s a game that’s good for you and so it’s just a video game. So the truth is, this is a treatment system. That includes, at its core, a therapeutic through software.

And so in our case, what we target is cognitive dysfunction across different diseases. Our first product that’s cleared by the FDA is a treatment for children with ADHD, focusing on attention function. What it is, is fast paced sensory stimulation and motor stimulation, but that’s not how the patient sees it. What the patient sees is that they’re coming into a game experience where they’re doing something that feels very familiar, they’re driving something down the road, and they’re interacting with things in the scene, and they’re making choices. So it’s very narrow, terrorized, if you will, into the experience. And so every moment of experience is adapting to the individual and their, but they’re collecting something. They have a goal. They’re having fun.

But what’s happening is second by second, the stimulation and the choices they’re making are stressing the prefrontal cortex of the brain in a very specific way. So at this point, we have, I think, four or five peer reviewed publications showing the effects of our technology on the frontal lobe over a month of treatment.

But the patient experience, like our design ethos was for the patient using this. We want in the moment of the experience for people to forget that they’re taking medicine, forget that they’re trying to get better. We want them to just have fun. And I think that’s something that hasn’t yet been achieved in digital health, for sure. I think it hasn’t been achieved in areas like educational software, right? And all these areas, people still feel like they know in the moment they’re doing math, or they know in the moment they’re doing behavioral therapy, because they have to like focus on X, Y, and Z strategies. I guess what excited us is can you have someone get a treatment that’s so, I guess, intuitive and implicit that they can just be having fun?

Now, that’s just the treatment that sits in the patient’s hands. Because the broader experience here, when I say this as a treatment system, is one of the beauties of digitals, we have so much data, and we have the ability to connect applications. So what we also do is we deliver, in the case of ADHD for parents and for teachers, we deliver applications, you know, mobile applications and web based portals, where they’re logging their own experiential data as a caregiver of what they’re seeing in their child, and then that data plus the data from the game in the child’s hand is all coming together to give a really rich view of a child that is pretty transformational with different historically in pediatric behavioral conditions.

You’ve got like a single data point over a month or two, a doctor says, hey, how’d it go over the last few months, and a parent tries to remember. Here, we’re getting daily data points from both parent and child. And in the case of the child, we’re getting massive amounts of data because it’s coming from the game. So this is really a tech forward or a tech first interaction. But what it does is it enables a rich set of data that humans, the mom and the child, or the dad and the child can have a better conversation, and that family unit can have a better conversation with their doctor.

09:36 Eugene: 

I mean, what you guys have built over this years is amazing. And of course, there’s even though you have tons of peer reviewed and you got now the FDA approval, which we’ll talk about. I guess part of what I also want to maybe peel the onion on, I don’t think anybody have thought about having a whole treatment system that’s based on a gaming technology and the front end beforehand and the complexities that go in even to public to the FDA, but also, if you think about on molecular side, there’s active ingredients.

So what are the implications of a digital therapeutic and how do you evaluate it? And again, I’ll just use an example for me, color blue might calm me, and red in the game might drive me crazy, so those are active ingredients as well. So can you talk a little bit about the process of active ingredients and measurements when it comes to a digital therapeutic like yourself?

10:30 Eddie: 

Sure, yeah, it’s one of the things I’m most excited about. I think, one of the kind of the first version or some maybe still, the dominant version of digital therapies are taking things that have existed in the past, like human interactions, or step by step guides and how to deal with a problem, and they’re digitizing those. And so they’re less based on some sort of active mechanism, and more based on tried and true techniques or strategies to help someone with a problem. And that’s great.

What we’re most excited about what I’m personally have always been most excited about is can software have a direct and predictable impact on physiology? So what we do is that are very specific sensory motor stimulus, when done in our game format and with the algorithms that calibrate the difficulty second, by second, it activates a very specific midline prefrontal cortical section of the brain, you can see the activation light up when you measure it, and it leads to coherence changes to other parts of the brain. But that’s one really narrow or specific way that active ingredients can be encoded into software.

What I’m excited about is, we have other technologies in R&D at Akili that are targeting different brain regions based on the tasks where they’re integrating physical activity along with cognitive demands. You have other companies out there now that are experimenting with light pulse waves. You have some companies experimenting with very specific sound in training events. I think, all of these there’s a massive spectrum of, I think, what digital therapeutics will bring to the world that will help us rethink what digital does to us in a predictable way.

It’s funny, because if you actually step back, we know that this is all true. You listen to a song and you can have an amazing emotional experience, right? You have a frightening moment in life, and it can actually change you forever. So we know that experiences are powerful…

12:22 Eugene: 

Especially when I think of dropping my phone and it’s going to crack, right?

12:25 Eddie: 

Yeah, well, my God, I mean, talk about right now all you have to do is look at anything that pops up on your phone today and you’re probably afraid. But I think the beauty of digital therapeutics is we’re taking all these things that we know, vaguely have a pretty powerful effect on the body and the brain, but we’re finally harnessing them into predictable specific algorithms. I think what we do is kind of the tip of the iceberg, quite frankly, both for Akili.

But I expect dozens of companies in the next few years coming out with very new things. You know, I mentioned stuff that’s maybe a little more obvious, like light stimulation and sound stimulation. But I believe we’re going to see, in the same way that the pharmaceutical industry, we could never predict 30 years ago all of the different physiological mechanisms that are targeted through molecules. I think we’re going to see the exact same thing through digital in the next decade.

13:14 Eugene: 

So as we’re talking about, I’ll say, deploying and active ingredients, again, part of the FDA process, when we talk about a molecule, it goes through a rigorous clinical trial just like yourselves, but then what happens is for you, or as a piece of software, you may have changes even three or six months later. To me, it’s a little bit even just super interesting to understand what is that process with the FDA? Where do you go from here as you roll out new versions? And yeah, I think educating our listeners to this would be super interesting.

13:51 Eddie: 

Yeah, you’re absolutely right that it’s one of the most, I would call it like blessing and a curse. A curse, because there’s a lot of fear around it, because this is new in the industry, so a lot of companies wrestle with this. And some of the earliest technologies in AI ran up and to a little bit of a wall where there wasn’t actually an understanding that AI adapts over time, so that type of thing scares people. So that’s the curse part.

The blessing is, this is exactly why digital can be amazing. And so as long as we recognize it, not only, I think we always tend to think in a fear mindset, like oh my gosh, if something changes, it might hurt someone or hurt the efficacy. But from a pure statistical point of view, you should take the full view that if that can happen, then if you harness it right, it also can potentially make it safer. Right? You can change things that optimize the experience that lead to better safety and efficacy.

What I would say is, versus where we first started, when FDA was first hearing about technologies like ours and companies like ours, to where we are today, the FDA has taken a leadership position in telling the industry that not only do they accept, they understand and they want to enable digital software, digital treatments to actually fully live up to their promise, which means they have to adapt. So the way we handle that is our approved treatments are the core algorithms within. And so even within our trials, even within the data submitted to the FDA, patients, they were all getting slightly different versions of the product because it was adapting for them. So that’s like the first level or the first foundational level that this medicine is different and changes.

And going forward, I think every company has slightly different approaches. We have a whole engineering quality system that basically is using models of our algorithms to show that when users interact, something has either not changed, or it has changed. And if it has changed dramatically, then obviously, we have to have a new submission or test that. This is where, again, digital, you have a lot more at your disposal, in some ways, you don’t have to pause if you think something’s different and go back to a year long clinical trial, you actually have enough data that you can almost in real time assess if the change has impacted the core algorithm.

So FDA, I would say is very open to that. They’re pushing, in fact, they’ve said publicly, they want companies like ours to be iterating software over time. And so I think it’s a misconception that you have to lock a piece of software and it can never change. That’s actually, even at the highest levels of the agency and regulatory frameworks. There’s a strong openness to how digital is going to evolve.

16:34 Eugene: 

That sound means it’s time for question from my journalistic partner on this podcast, Brian Dolan, who is the founder of Exits & Outcomes, and as I like to call him “The Digital Health Detective”. Let’s see what question Brian has for our guests today.

16:49 Brian: 

Okay, here’s my question. Can you walk us through the decision to launch a version of Endeavor Rx pre-FDA market authorization during the pandemic, and following the FDA is temporary deregulatory action around medical devices like Endeavor? And as part of that decision making, you know, I’m really curious, did you see any risk in going for that launch?

17:17 Eddie: 

Yeah, thanks, Brian. It’s a great question. I think a lot of people have looked to us and we’re curious on how and why we made the decision. We actually launched the product under COVID, I think less than six business days from when the guidance came out. And to be clear, we did not have advance notice from the FDA. Even though we were far down the path on our Endeavor Rx full regulatory package, we were not made aware early. So it was a decision that we looked at and we quickly decided that this was an opportunity for our treatment, which in our case, had already gone through clinical trials. The FDA was very aware of our data, we knew it could help people that have the validation, and especially in our markets, these are families dealing with school and services shutting down, we felt like it was the right thing to do.

So from our perspective, it was driven almost entirely by we have a treatment that works and that helps people and we can put this out and help families in the moment, we built the company to help people. So that was the driving force.

I will say it would be disingenuous of me to say there is a secondary benefit there, which was not lost on us. But it was a great opportunity to learn more about the treatment on the market, what’s resonating, what’s not, and how we can better serve patients when we have the full product full approval and are launching our full business model. So that was a benefit.

The risks, we looked at risks, I think there’s more risk for a company in a scenario like that, if you’re not intending to really follow through with a commercial launch, because it does take money and resources and a whole lot of time and sleepless nights to mobilize a commercial platform quickly. So our team was round the clock for a week and then for the weeks after that serving the incoming interest and product distribution. Massively risky, if you are not going to follow through and get an approval, or if you don’t have the data, and therefore, whenever that temporary emergency order lifts, all of a sudden, you’re back at square one. But in our case, we have the data, we had already built the internal foundation of the commercial model. And so for us, it was a pretty straightforward decision.

19:32 Eugene: 

And I’m going to jump in here. So let’s go back to commercial model and to the extent you can talk about the pricing. I know you guys priced at around 450 bucks. And we actually started talking about that while your hypothesis for the actual business has not changed, aka prescribed wearable software, your channel strategy has. So it’s a combination with bill the onion on the pricing to the extent you can and maybe your journey through the channel strategy?

20:03 Eddie: 

Sure, yeah, the pricing strategy is pretty straightforward. We weren’t doing any secret sauce here. Our perspective is, there’s a 10x range of costs of treatments in the system for ADHD and similar conditions. What we looked at are the treatments that are either prescribed or recommended. So pharmaceuticals and behavioral therapy that ADHD patients routinely use for the type of outcomes that we can offer and then we tried to price directly in the middle of that. So we’re pricing it 450 for a three month prescription or $150 a month is pretty much right down the fairway of what is average on average being paid for in the drug or behavioral therapy space by insurance, health care system, etc.

And so that was really our thought is, yes, we think there’s some benefits to digital therapeutics that go far beyond what today’s medicine does, but we also know there’s some things that today’s medicine does digital therapeutics want to do. So our point was not to have a free business model, which would never work, and also not to price higher than what’s out there today because we just think it’s fair to fit within the existing frameworks.

In terms of the channel strategy, the things that have changed for us over time, I’ll be honest, when I was first planning this, and we were running trials, and I was thinking about, what’s the beauty and the market reaction to this new class of medicine? I was very much in the typical pharma mindset. Right? So I was thinking, okay, well, we’ll have to have a few 100 sales reps, and we’ll be flooding the market and whatever the product is, we’re just going to push it day one and try to get max and cover the globe. That has changed pretty dramatically for a few reasons. One, on looking at a deeper, we felt like it was an extremely inefficient strategy from a resource and spend perspective, in the same way pharma many times sees that it’s inefficient, especially given our technology resonates in a way that it doesn’t need a heavy sales push in the same way.

The other important piece is, I think we fully have embraced now that our technology like many other technologies, it relates to the question you asked earlier about iteration, everything about our model can change related to feedback, and related to how patients and doctors are experiencing our process. So we actually swung nearly 180 degrees in the other direction from a kind of big bang pharma launch, and have instead been pursuing these smaller, more targeted tests, where we’re seeing live patients come through live prescriptions come through full payment cycle, full use cycle, and we’re adapting and iterating because we’ve decided we want to model and so for us, that meant start in a lean way and grow over time.

22:54 Eugene: 

And again, I’m just going to jump back to the cost of to your point, you priced, it’s somewhere in the middle from a reimbursement perspective, and maybe touch on PBMs and lovely formularies.

23:07 Eddie: 

Yeah, well, I mean, the first thing that you recognize that I’m not sure all listeners will, is that digital therapeutics are medical devices regulatorily. And the difference in the US between medical devices and drugs is medical devices do not have automatic coverage. Drugs have automatic coverage, now, they don’t have to be put on the top tier formularies, of course, they can be pushed down and held back. But there is at least that first bar, digital therapeutics have yet one more bar at the foundational level, which is just getting coverage at all.

So I think there is work to be done for our industry in making sure that that is as seamless as possible, following approvals, so we’re, of course, working on that. We’ve already seen and I think it’s owing to the path our product has been down, but also probably the change in the world related to mental health and digital technologies. We’re already seeing some low level initial one off patient coverage through insurance, which is really encouraging. Historically, in digital, it’s like, you don’t get a single thing, engagement with insurance until you do the years to sign a contract. But we’re seeing something a little different in the early days of our launch, which is excellent.

I would say our strategy is we want to be flexible. So we know that in some insurers see digital fitting a little easier through pharmacy benefits, and we’re seeing some of that, and then some insurers, they’ll see it as a medical benefit. And that’s not off the table. What we are trying to do with a number of other companies is actually established categories for digital therapeutics that are standalone so that people don’t have to think does this shove into A or B, this can be a C, it’s its own pillar. And so there’s work going on at the legislative level here in the US where we’re pushing to have a new category established as well as work with specific insurers.

24:51 Eugene: 

So you know, I know there are a couple of former players on your cap table, even from the early days and this is probably does not apply to you guys directly as Akili as, I would say ,a true PDT. But where I’ve been grappling a bit, I mean, again as you guys are exploring the real health consumer and how does individual interact with what you call the treatment system, and that includes my caregivers, etc versus I would say the molecular world and the farmer world, what you just talked about earlier, is the novel DTx company that know the experience of then consumer going to swallow the pill inside that experience, or will pharma companies eventually I don’t know, maybe one of them will purchase you as Akili, right, as an additional revenue stream? And where do you see that in the spectrum?

25:47 Eddie: 

Great question, man. I don’t want to profess to have like the answer or to have even an extremely strong point of view of exactly how this will play out. There are a couple things I see pretty clearly. The first is digital therapeutics is a new pillar. It’s an independent pillar. And what that means is, and I’ve been extremely public about this. What that means is, the pharmaceutical company is not necessary for the growth of this industry.

And I think early on, one of the biggest questions people would ask, you know, I’m on panels or doing interviews like this, and people would say, okay, so have you gotten any pharmaceutical companies so that the business model can succeed? Like that was a cause and effect relationship in there. And I’ve pushed back on that pretty heavily and I think we’ve seen now with prescription digital therapeutics, and digital therapeutics, broadly, that doesn’t need to be the case. So it’s independent, it’s a new pillar. Now, that actually is interesting, because it now leads to a number of different solutions of how this could roll out.

So for instance, I actually think you’re going to have pharmaceutical companies that never get into digital therapeutics, everyone’s getting into digital, but that never decide, no, just like some pharmaceutical companies don’t do biologics, just like some pharmaceutical companies don’t do diagnostics, I think you’ll have some that don’t get into digital therapeutics. I think you’ll have others that do and probably acquire companies or start to develop capabilities in house.

And frankly, I think in the slightly longer timeframe, you will have digital first companies that start to develop pharmaceuticals. And then I think you’ll have partnerships with a standalone company. So I actually think there’s no one model. I think when you have two independent pillars, there’s lots of different ways that can combine in the marketplace. And I think that’s what we’ll see.

27:35 Eugene: 

You know, it’s interesting, you called it an independent pillar, right? Because obviously, many pharma companies and I just simply call it cuddling with DTx companies or DTx companies cuddling with pharma either way and it actually does work and there’s a molecule or drug plus relationship. And then to your point, there are, as I think Brian loves to call this, PDT’s right Prescription Digital Therapeutics, that I think he’s very much into, and there’s that to me of a little bit of that in between what I think the term has been kind of Disease Management 2.0, right? It’s the combination of services, digital technologies, some of them might be DTx inside, and by the way, molecules are part of that. Right? If we rewind back 10-12 years ago, disease management has been different programs around it and I think we’ve been it’s been famous around diabetes. Where does your thought process around, I’ll call it, PDT’s Drug Plus or Disease Management 2.0?

28:39 Eddie: 

Well, that’s a tough one, because I don’t think those boundaries are extremely clear. I do think, the clear boundaries truly are…

28:47 Eugene: 

That’s exactly my point.

28:49 Eddie: 

Yeah, exactly. It’s, it’s like a false premise. Right?

28:54 Eugene:

Yeah.

28:55 Eddie: 

To answer this maze puzzle, so I think the clearest boundary there is PDT is alone versus combination products with drugs, right? Because that’s clear, the regulatory class is different, the capabilities it takes to develop those products is different, so that’s a clear-ish line. I think the less clear line is disease management, because I think what we’re all going to learn, and we’ve already invested here is that in the same way that we’ve learned that a pill out on an island doesn’t really serve patients in the fullest way, you know, here, go home and take this pill and let’s see what happens in a couple months. That’s changing and has changed in the last decade pretty dramatically. I think we should learn from that. And I think digital therapeutics need to have some of these care management components with them as well. Right?

I already described how we have products for both the patient and caregivers. We also have what our business calls, Akili Care, which is humans, support team that can help patients. So we’re deploying in some ways a care model along with our digital therapeutic as a support. I think we will see that a lot more. Now, every company won’t be able to invest in that, right, because in some ways, it doubles your investment from just helping with the product. But I do think that whoever ends up distributing it, whether it’s partnerships, or whether it’s a company like ours alone, I do think you’re going to see more of a convergence there where it’s the beauty and the obligation in my mind of digital to make use of the data and the connection and the experience you have with patients. And that lends itself so cleanly to some of these care type platforms.

The differences, I think there’s a lot of value starting with the treatment product so that you understand what’s the direct effect you’re having with the patient and then build around it versus the opposite. Right? We’re going to build a holistic solution, and then somehow back into the treatment, that’s just not my general way of thinking. I like to start with the core issue for the patient.

30:52 Eugene: 

So you refer to human beings, which is why you’re doing this: this is for us, the humans, and not just the patients, but the caregivers. And obviously, you went the FDA route, so the docs are given from a prescription perspective. But let’s go nurses, and even selfishly with your coach, where around the health coaching perspective itself. So human support human beings around your product, where do you see that going?

31:25 Eddie: 

It’s critical. I do think humans, not just in the loop, but as part of the experience, again, digital, some people have the nihilistic view that digital cuts out the human. But what I love, and I think you love and believe in is digital can actually strengthen human relationships, right? They can bring people together, and it can magnify or have synergy. That’s certainly how we’re going about this.

So I think, there’s actually humans involved for us on the front end and back end. And what I mean by that is, certainly prescribers, which today are doctors, physicians, I believe that with digital, we’re going to have the opportunity to broaden the prescriber and prescribing ability to other healthcare practitioners: psychologists, coaches, people who are really intimately involved in care and this democratization of care that’s happening in healthcare. That’s a little bit of an ambition, and aspirational, because it’s not happening today. But I do think digital with our safety profile will actually have the potential to enable a broader set of prescribers. So I think that’s at the front end, what we’re going to see happen here with digital.

At the back end, I think there’s a whole world of how you engage coaches, psychologists and other practitioners, therapists in the longer term care of a patient when you can have a really strong digital treatment at the beginning of that plan. So what I mean by that is, sometimes what happens is, there’s this like false premise put up of an either or. It’s like, okay, you either go the human coaching psychologist route, and maybe if that doesn’t work, then you go to a pharmaceutical or a treatment.

But I actually think what digital in our model enables is we’re doing the treatment directly first, people may or may not be in coaching or therapy, but the treatment is like direct, it’s acute and what it’s doing is changing neural processing for people, it’s changing their cognitive function and their ability. Then you bring on top of that a longer term coaching or therapist or psychologist or physician engagement, and it should theoretically, actually have a much better effect and lead to longer term engagement and retention. So I think it’s good for the business model. I think it’s good for those individual humans outside the business model. Exactly how we get there and make it happen, I think is still TBD, honestly.

33:44 Eugene: 

Absolutely. And since we’re speaking about humans, and I think the point of this podcast is get to know the humans behind these companies and the trailblazers. So we started with broad shoe there but I guess, my big question always is what’s your why, what makes you get up in the morning?

34:04 Eddie: 

I love that are my why, you know, Akili as a business as why, but I’ll stay with myself is what we can do for people in the world, so our patients. But what I mean by that is, I get motivated, not just by the clinical outcome, you know, exactly how does this help people in their daily life, which we’ll see. But if you, for instance, watch the testimonials on patients using Endeavour, you hear two things. You hear this specific clinical benefits on doing X, Y and Z better in daily life, but you also hear an empowerment.

So many of patient populations for digital therapeutics are going after have been marginalized. They haven’t felt supported by the current medical system. They felt like the medical system is a lesser evil sometimes or it’s something that they hope to avoid. And I think when they’re brought digital treatments that have an unexperienced upfront, to use your words, that engage them, that are really open and transparent with data, I think patients are starting to feel supported. So they get benefits, and they feel an empowerment.

And in our case, I have a soft spot for children, and we’re working with children 8-12 years old, who typically have felt like they’re struggling, they’re not supported, they feel like they may not be succeeding in life. And when you can see that turn in people, when you can see them saying, not only am I getting better here, but I have a new lease on life as a child, it’s hard to get more motivated than to help people like that.

So at Akili, we have a saying a lot that we say, “the patient at the table”, which means when we’re having a discussion around a table on any business area, what would the patient in the table think, what would the patient in the table want, if they’re at the table with us? And I think it’s a guiding principle, but it really is why we’re all here and doing what we do.

36:03 Eugene: 

Love it. And certainly, that passion exudes. So thank you very much, Eddie for making the time and I’m sure our listeners learned a lot from you.

36:11 Eddie: 

Awesome. Thanks, Eugene.

36:13 Eugene: 

Thanks so much for tuning into Digital Therapeutics Edition of Digital Health Today, production of Mission Based Media. Be sure to hit that subscribe button to this podcast on your favorite podcast player, so you then automatically notified when we post our upcoming episodes, where I speak with dozens of leaders and trailblazers who are forging the path for digital therapeutics.

If you’d like to learn more about Your Coach Health, or Brian Dolan’s Exit & Outcomes, you can always find the links to this and more in the show notes for this episode. You can connect with me personally on twitter at HealthEugene, or follow my journey of writing my first book “Hard Pill to Swallow” at hardpilltoswallow.substack.com. I’m Eugene Borukhovich and catch you next time.

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Ep20: Investing in DTx Businesses The view from venture capital
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