Pear Therapeutics has inked a deal with pharma company Novartis to work together on the development of two digital therapeutics for multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia. It’s the first time a pharma company has made a development deal with a digital therapeutic, according to Pear.
“We have been in discussions for many months now with the [Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research] group at Novartis, really talking about their desire to really realize the value of digital therapeutics as a treatment modality much like you would as a small molecule,” Alex Waldron, chief commercial officer of Pear Therapeutics, told MobiHealthNews. “They were a series A investor in our company and a series B investor in our company. They have been following us very closely since the beginning, so when we started to figure out the potential of co-developing or partnering with a company they stepped right up and saw that as a very natural fit in terms of where they’d like it to go.”
One therapeutic included in the deal, Pear’s Thrive for schizophrenia, has been under development for a while and has already been validated in three clinical trials comprising of more than a thousand patients. The other, a therapeutic designed to address the mental health conditions that come along with multiple sclerosis, will be a new application developed in partnership with Novartis.
“We’ve had a lot of experience and a lot of engagement with MS patients and clinicians treating MS patients,” Joris Van Dam, head of digital therapeutics at Novartis, told MobiHealthNews. “And what we’ve heard from them is over and above the symptoms they experience from MS itself, they’re really suffering from a mental health burden. By which I mean depression, anxiety, fatigue, cognitive impairment. And it’s left relatively untreated today because treatment is really focused on the mobility symptoms. But the two are related. If your MS gets worse you get more anxious and depressed and vice versa. … So you can’t really treat the patient unless you treat all of the patient. We’re very excited about exploring a future where we can treat our patients with the best of drugs and the best of digital and we think that Pear Therapeutics is certainly among the best of digital today.”
Waldron told MobiHealthNews that Pear Therapeutics is currently looking for a partner to market reSET and reSET-O, its addiction-focused therapeutics that are on the market right now. He sees the future of the company in mental health rather than addiction, with therapeutics similar to the ones involved in the Novartis deal.
“Our strategy at its core is to legitimize this … by finding a pharmaceutical partner to do some development deals with. They learn from that, we learn from that, … and then we’ll build our own portfolio and fully realize Pear as an operational company based on other diseases,” Waldron said.
This may be the first developmental partnership between a pharma company and a digital therapeutic, but it isn't the first time a pharma company has worked with a company in the burgeoning space. Back in 2014, Akili Labs, which is working on digital therapeutics for Alzheimer's and ADHD, partnered with Pfizer on clinical trials.