Sanofi, a prominent French pharmaceutical company, is working with Happify Health to enter the digital health field. The two have been researching a digital treatment option for patients with multiple sclerosis and depression, aiming to create alternative treatments to existing pharmaceutical options.
“The regulatory pathway has really become much more amenable, and we know for certain diseases, a digital therapeutic can actually be very effective,” said Chief Digital Officer Ameet Nathwani. “There’s an opportunity in finding alternatives that are lower cost and can be delivered in a different way.”
Happify was created by Tomer Ben-Kiki, Ofer Leidner, and Andy Parsons in New York City in 2012 with the goal of using innovative science and technologies to improve quality of life. The company offers evidence-supported digital solutions to improve mental health, providing games and metrics through a smartphone app with positive psychology at the center.
With costs tied to the research and production of new drugs rising, many pharma companies are looking to form partnerships with digital health companies. Mobile health solutions such as smartphone apps and AI-based platforms offer a promising and rapidly growing field of pharmaceutical alternatives.
“If you look at the cycle times, clearly in digital therapeutics they’re disruptively shorter,” explained Nathwani, who also serves as Sanofi’s chief medical officer.
Novartis Teams with Pear Therapeutics
Just last year, Pear Therapeutics teamed up with Sandoz, a Novartis branch, to release reSET, the first and only FDA-approved prescription digital therapeutic. The app is designed to help those with substance use disorders conquer their addictions and uses psychological therapies in concert with physician-delivered care to do so.
Novartis and Sanofi are among several pharma giants who are creating new jobs in the digital space, signifying a push towards tech-solutions in the industry. The mobile health market was estimated to account for over $28 billion in 2018, and is estimated to reach a staggering $187 billion by 2024. With this dramatic rise in estimated market value, it comes with no surprise that many drugmakers are exploring digital health solutions.
How will Sanofi Use Digital Solutions in the Future
Sanofi looks to use digital solutions in concert with pharmaceutical intervention to improve patient outcomes, but the company claims the new research could indicate digital solutions that function well on their own.
“We’re looking to see whether we cannot just improve the depression, but the question then is can you improve some of the underlying MS attributes,” Nathwani said. “Digital therapeutics could be an interesting option for us.”
He explained that US regulators are facilitating the development of new digital health solutions at a much faster pace than those in Europe, accrediting some of the delay to the European Medicines Agency’s movement from London to Amsterdam. Nathwani also noted that Brexit, the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, is dampening such endeavors as well.
“In Europe, I think it’s going to take more time,” he said. “We’re hoping they will very quickly pick up the baton.”
— roy s (@roys_wix) May 15, 2019