Akili Interactive Labs raises another $12M for cognitive health game

By Heather Mack
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Digital medicine company Akili Interactive Labs announced an $11.9 million expansion of its recent Series B funding, adding new investors into the round and bringing the series total to $42.4 million.

The Dutch subsidiary of Merck Ventures, known as M Ventures in the US and Canada, and the venture arm of Amgen joined existing investors, which include Pfizer and Shire Pharmaceuticals. This means Akili now has relationships with four major biopharma companies or their investment affiliates. Previously, the Boston-based Akili raised $30.5 million.

Akili makes a therapeutic video game called Project Evo designed to treat cognitive conditions, including ADHD and Alzheimers. To play Project Evo, a user navigates an alien avatar (chosen because it is culture-neutral but also relatable) down a course by tilting a mobile device back and forth. While navigating the alien, the user must also respond to targets by tapping the screen. The app keeps track of movements and can therefore monitor the user’s behavior and quickly adapt to the player.

Akili is currently running a clinical trial testing Project Evo with ADHD, and in 2014 partnered with Pfizer to work on a study of the game’s impact on Alzheimer’s. It also worked with Delivering Scientific Innovation for Autism (DELSIA), a not-for-profit subsidiary of Autism Speaks. If all goes well on the ADHD trial, the company will submit an application for an FDA clearance.

In January, Akili CEO and cofounder Eddie Martucci told MobiHealthNews that the company predicts it could receive FDA clearance and bring products to market by the end of 2017.

With the new round of funding and partnerships, Akili will expand its clinical reach into neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s, major depressive disorder and multiple sclerosis.

“There exists a tremendous opportunity to deliver medicine that is efficacious and addresses the needs for safe, non-pharmacological treatments in many neurological and mental health patient popolations,” Martucci said in a statement.

This was the M Ventures’ first investment in the digital medicine space.

“We believe digital medicine is the next frontier in healthcare, and we’re committed to helping bring digital into mainstream biopharma for a variety of patient and clinical needs,” M Ventures’ managing director Roel Bulthuis said in a statement. “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.”