After Novartis left, Boehringer bets up to $500M on the field of prescription smartphone apps
Boehringer Ingelheim wants in on digital therapeutics.
The German pharma signed an up to $500 million collaboration with Click Therapeutics, one of a handful of major companies developing prescription computer and smartphone applications for various neurological or mental disorders. They join a small list of pharmas that have decided to test the waters in the emerging field.
Under the deal, Boehringer and Click will co-develop a digital therapeutic for schizophrenia, known as CT-155. It’s a complementary effort to Boehringer’s more traditional schizophrenia work. The company has concentrated their neuroscience efforts there since 2018, when a Phase II failure blew up their late-stage Alzheimer’s efforts.
“CT-155 is an excellent addition to our CNS pipeline portfolio; it reflects our patient centric approach and translates evidence showing how behavioral modification can induce positive neuronal changes into a widely accessible solution,” Cornelia Dorner-Ciossek, Boehringer’s head of CNS disease research, said in a statement.
Boehringer is at least the third Big Pharma to dip their toes into digital therapeutics. Sanofi Ventures — the French giant’s investment arm — led a $17 million funding round for Click in 2018, the same year Merck’s venture arm contributed to the video game therapeutics company Akili’s $55 million Series C. Novartis also signed a partnership that year with Pear Therapeutics to commercialize Pear’s FDA-authorized app for substance abuse, although they pulled out of the partnership just one year later.
Boehringer’s new deal marks one of the first major development partnerships between a large pharma company and a digital therapeutic.
Click has already developed a commercial app for smoking cessation called Clickotine. Clickotine, like the other apps Click has in development for insomnia, migraine and major depressive disorder, among others, uses a variety of smartphone-based features to try to adjust people’s behavior. In Clickotine’s case, that involves “personalized curriculums” that offer users live coaching, guided breathing, and personal analytics. That app, though, while backed by a non-controlled study, did not have to be FDA-approved as other apps will.
Click has released little about CT-155 — its description on their website reads simply “confidential” — but in theory it could be used alongside existing schizophrenia drugs and, eventually, alongside the schizophrenia meds Boehringer now has in its pipeline. Two such compounds are now in Phase II.