Over the past decade, the life science industry has increasingly embraced digital tools to facilitate data search, processing and collection. This trend accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, in 2021 we have seen more and more digital therapies emerge into the market, as pharmaceutical companies and startups work together to collect real-world data and investments continue in decentralized clinical trials.
Read on for some of the biggest pharma news in 2021.
As the digital therapeutics industry continues to grow, traditional life science players are turning to DTx startups for partnerships. Beginning of 2021, Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and digital therapy company Click Therapeutics announced a new remote clinical trial underway on Verily’s Project Baseline platform. The study focuses on measuring the effectiveness of digital therapeutic interventions on adults with major depressive disorder (MDD) who are taking antidepressant monotherapy.
In addition, a life sciences company Eli Lilly has announced that it is partnering with diabetes management company Welldoc on a new licensing and collaboration agreement that promises to integrate Welldoc’s software into the pharmaceutical company’s insulin products, which are still in development.
A number of new digital therapies have also appeared on the market. For example, in November AppliedVR has obtained FDA De Novo clearance for its virtual reality system that treats chronic lower back pain.
During the summer Happify Health has announced the launch of its first digital prescription therapy (PDTx), named Ensemble, which focuses on major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. The product does not yet have FDA clearance, but was able to be launched thanks to a 2020 directive that relaxed regulations for digital health companies looking to treat psychiatric conditions.
In August, Swing Therapeutics has achieved a breakthrough designation from the FDA for its fibromyalgia platform.
One of the best-known DTx companies, Pear Therapeutics, made headlines this year by announcing a $ 1.6 billion PSPC agreement. In December, the company began trading on the Nasdaq.
In addition to going public, Pear has also embarked on a host of deals. In April, he announced collaboration agreements with Empatica and etectRx, as well as a licensing agreement with KeyWise.
Later in the year, the company announced the acquisition of the assets of digital therapy company Waypoint Health Innovations, as well as the assets of Örebro University researcher Fredrik Holländare.
Real world data
In April, Kaiku Health, maker of an oncology-focused platform that collects patient-reported outcomes, announced it is teaming up with Novartis in a new effort to help monitor and manage melanoma.
AstraZeneca also examines the real-world data space. In February, the company announced its partnership with AliveCor, maker of personal ECG devices based on artificial intelligence, to study new ways to manage cardio, kidney and metabolic problems.
Biogen partners with tech giant Apple on a multi-year cognitive decline research study that would use the Apple Watch and the iPhone. The study seeks to find digital biomarkers to assess the cognitive performance of patients.
But all hasn’t been smooth for companies working on real-world data collection. the The FDA has rejected Verily’s Parkinson’s disease-focused clinical trial tool, designed to assess the effectiveness of certain types of interventions, on the assumption that the tool has limited ability to capture the image full of a patient’s abilities.
Detection and assistance tools
Verily also made some progress in 2021. The Alphabet subsidiary joined forces with the Mayo Clinic on a new effort to develop a digital point-of-care decision support tool. The partnership begins with a focus on cardiometabolic conditions.
Roche Diagnostics International has signed an agreement with Medial EarlySign to commercialize an artificial intelligence tool designed to help detect cancer at an early stage.
Roche also signed an agreement with the AI-backed pathology company PathAI. The agreement aims to enable PathAI to develop and distribute its AI pathology technology through Roche’s uPath enterprise software.
It’s been a big year for startups focused on using artificial intelligence to fuel drug discovery. Valo Health, a technology-based drug discovery company, emerged into the public market through a $ 2.8 billion PSPC merger.
In May, research platform supported by AI insitro landed $ 143 million in funding and Exscientia found $ 60 million. In November, DeepCure secured $ 40 million for its drug research platform.
The giant of Silicon Valley NVIDIA is also setting its sights on the drug discovery space. The company announced that it is partnering with AstraZeneca and the University of Florida on new artificial intelligence research projects aimed at boosting drug discovery and patient care.
The decentralized clinical trials space is also heating up. In May, Science 37, a decentralized clinical trials operating system developer, has announced plans to go public through a PSPC merger.
Meanwhile, the digital clinical trials platform Medable landed a massive $ 305 million Series D funding in October. TrialSpark, a healthcare technology platform that enables vendors to become clinical trial sites, scored a whopping $ 156 million during the fall. Additionally, Florence received $ 80 million in May.