Welldoc is tapping Astellas Pharma to assist Japanese and Asian commercialization efforts for the former’s digital therapeutic for patients with diabetes, the companies announced yesterday.
To kick off the deal, Astellas is making an upfront $15 million payment to Welldoc, which will allow the pharma to jointly develop and commercialize the BlueStar product in the region. The two will also be working together to expand BlueStar’s adoption within the US, and to collaborate on the development and worldwide commercialization of additional digital therapeutics for other therapeutic indications.
Further development and commercialization milestones are included in the deal alongside royalties to Welldoc for future product sales, according to the companies.
“Astellas is a critical partner as Welldoc looks to broaden our platform into other disease areas as well as expand into other global markets,” Welldoc President and CEO Kevin McRaith said in a statement.
WHY IT MATTERS
This international commercialization deal is another notch in the belt for Welldoc, which has had a much longer history of support from pharma and other players than many others in the digital health space. In this case, the deal allows the company to better expand its business into new regions with the support of a partner well versed in the specifics of those markets.
Looking more broadly, the deal is also continuing signal that mainstay healthcare industry players, both domestic and international, are interested in digital health products.
“Under our Strategic Plan 2018, Astellas is committed to Developing Rx+TM programs, which aim to create new, clinically relevant healthcare solutions (Rx+TM) that combine expertise gained from its prescription drug (Rx) business with technology and knowledge from different fields. Our alliance with Welldoc, a pioneer in the digital therapeutics field, is part of this commitment,” Naoki Okamura, representative director corporate EVP, chief strategy officer and CFO for Astellas, said in a statement. “Advances in digital technology are bringing dynamic innovations to the healthcare field. Astellas is proactively investing in this field to take advantage of these advances.”
THE LARGER TREND
A number of digital health companies and pharmas are launching new collaborations focused both on product development and commercialization, and a good number of these involve the marriage of American startups and Asian pharmas.
March saw Akili Interactive Labs hand off east Asia sales, clinical development and marketing for its video game-like treatment to Osaka, Japan-based Shionogi (although this deal notably keeps distribution, data collection and other rights in the hands of Akili). About half a year prior, Proteus Digital Health expanded its ongoing development and commercialization partnership with Otsuka Pharmaceutical to the tune of five years and $88 million.
But things haven’t always been rosy between digital health startups and pharmas as of late, as just last month came word that Pear Therapeutics and and Novartis subsidiary Sandoz were winding down their commercialization partnership for reSET and reSET-O. It should be said, though, that Pear bounced back just a few weeks later with the announcement of a new product development deal with Ironwood Pharmaceuticals.