Akili Interactive Labs raises $160M in equity and debt to transform cognitive healthcare via prescription videogame treatments

Akili raises $110m to build its digital therapeutics pipeline (pharmaforum):

EndeavorRx became the first and so far only approved prescription video game treatment in the US when it was cleared by the FDA last year to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and has also been given a green light in Europe.

It is also being tested for other indications including fuzzy thinking in COVID-19 survivors, a condition sometimes known as ‘brain fog’.

The new funding, which is accompanied by a $50 million loan facility, is earmarked for the continued rollout of the app as well as Akili’s pipeline of prescription digital therapeutics for “a range of chronic and acute cognitive disorders,” said the Boston-based company.

The Series D was led by Neuberger Berman Funds and included a string of other investors, including venture capital arms of drugmakers like Shionogi, Amgen and Merck KGaA … Other programmes in the R&D phase

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Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled chatbot Wysa raises $5.5M to broaden access to mental health support

Wysa’s AI-Guided Mental Health Platform Closes $5.5M Series A to Bridge the Gap in Employee Mental Health (press release):

“Wysa, the leading global AI-powered mental health platform, today, during Mental Health Awareness Month, announced a $5.5M Series A financing round led by W Health Ventures, a Boston-based digital health investor. Others participating in the round include the Google Assistant Investment program, and existing investors pi Ventures and Kae Capital. Wysa will use this capital to support its offering to employers who want to expand their mental health benefits, as well as scale up Wysa’s sales team and therapist network.

“We are impressed with Wysa’s uncompromising clinical safety and unparalleled patient-centricity. It maintains a near-perfect rating from approximately 100,000 reviews resulting from over 100 million conversations,” said Dr. Pankaj Jethwani, Executive Vice President at W Health Ventures. “As we enter the second year of the pandemic, so many people are struggling

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Debate: Are depression and dementia two sides of the same coin? And, if they are, how to best approach treatment?

Every seven seconds, someone in the world is diagnosed with dementia. A typical case that I often see in my practice is as follows: A 76-year-old woman has a two-year history of progressive worsening of short-term memory and cognitive decline. She can’t recall the names of her grandchildren and is devastated by her deteriorating abilities.

However, this is not the first time in her life that she has had feelings of loss and despair. Over the past 30 years, she has intermittently struggled with depression and anxiety. Her family has many questions: Does she have dementia or Alzheimer’s? Could her depression have led to a dementia diagnosis? Is it only depression and not dementia? These are all good questions and the collective answer to them is “yes.”

Dementia and depression

Dementia and depression are the two dreaded “D” diagnoses that are increasingly robbing our aging population of health and happiness Read the rest

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Teladoc Health, having acquired Livongo and myStrength, launches integrated mental health service for the workplace

Teladoc builds out mental healthcare services with myStrength Complete (MobiHealthNews):

Virtual care giant Teladoc is building out its behavioral health services through its latest program, myStrength Complete.

The new offering is designed to give users a single integrated mental healthcare experience. It combines the app-based models of care from myStrength with Teladoc’s on-demand therapists and psychiatrists … The myStrength platform uses evidence-based clinical models such as cognitive behavioral therapy, positive psychology and mindfulness to help treat behavioral health conditions such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and substance use disorder.

The company was bought by Livongo in 2019 and was then absorbed in Teladoc’s acquisition of Livongo last year.

myStrength Complete will be available to individuals through their health plans or employers in July, Teladoc said in its announcement.

The Announcement:

Teladoc Health Launches “myStrength Complete” As First Unified Mental Health Care Experience (press release):

Teladoc Health, Inc. (NYSE: TDOC) today announced

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Study finds MDMA-assisted therapy to be safe and highly effective to treat severe PTSD

The First Phase 3 Success for Psychedelics Will Pave the Way for an Industry (Barron’s):

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a crippling, hard-to-treat psychiatric affliction. America spends billions of dollars yearly just on the veterans who suffer from PTSD. So it’s heartening to see the report of a promising new treatment, published Monday in Nature Medicine.

In Monday’s report, an international team of researchers describe their test of a treatment combining psychotherapy with doses of MDMA—the illegal drug popularly known as Ecstasy or Molly. The MDMA-assisted therapy was dramatically effective at reducing PTSD symptoms and improving daily functioning in the 42 treated participants, when compared with the 37 participants who got psychotherapy and a placebo drug.

Two months after their last drug-assisted session, two-thirds of the MDMA-treated patients no longer met the diagnosis for PTSD, compared with one third of those treated with placebos … The Nature authors speculate that MDMA-assisted

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New book outlines the five lifestyle pillars to “build a better brain at any age”

Like many people over 60, I sometimes lose my keys or forget the names of favorite films. When I do, it makes me wonder: Is this the beginning of cognitive decline? Or, worse, am I fated to follow in the footsteps of my mother, who died of Lewy-body dementia in her 70s?

According to neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta, CNN medical correspondent and author of the new book Keep Sharp: Building a Better Brain at Any Age, the answer is no. Forgetfulness is normal at all ages, and your genes don’t doom you to dementia. What’s important is taking care of your brain in the best way possible, he argues.

“You can affect your brain’s thinking and memory far more than you realize or appreciate, and the vast majority of people haven’t even begun to try,” he writes.

Gupta distills results from hundreds of research studies to help readers understand what’s known … Read the rest

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Comprehensive research review identifies most promising interventions to boost workplace mental health

Image: Ellice Weaver/Wellcome

Why an evidence-driven approach is the best way for businesses to support workplace mental health (World Economic Forum):

Mental health has never been higher on the agenda for businesses. It is easy to see why, as even prior to COVID-19, anxiety and depression were estimated to cost the global economy over $1 trillion every year in lost productivity. The exodus from offices in 2020 has presented further challenges and raised big questions about future ways of working … The absence of a deep and robust evidence base for approaches to supporting workplace mental health is a problem and can lead to well-intentioned businesses making critical and sensitive decisions in the dark. At best, such interventions are working and we just don’t know why or, at worst, they could be causing harm to workforces…

Wellcome, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, is publishing new research on workplace … Read the rest

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Study: Social media and general tech engagement not found to “fry” teenagers’ brains

Little to no increase in association between adolescents’ mental health problems and digital tech (Science Daily):

With the explosion in digital entertainment options over the past several decades and the more recent restrictions on outdoor and in-person social activities, parents may worry that excessive engagement with digital technology could have long-term effects on their children’s mental health.

A new study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, however, found little evidence for an increased association between adolescents’ technology engagement and mental health problems over the past 30 years. The data did not consistently support the suggestion that the technologies we worry about most (e.g., smartphones) are becoming more harmful…

“If we want to understand the relationship between tech and well-being today, we need to first go back and look at historic data — as far back as when parents were concerned too much TV would give their kids square eyes

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Study: Higher mental wellbeing (in 2016) seen to lower healthcare costs (in 2017)

There are many reasons why mental wellbeing is important. Not only is it protective against physical illnesses and linked to greater productivity, but the mental wellbeing of a population is essential for a country’s sustainability, long-term growth and development.

But despite the clear benefits, governments tend to focus public spending on treating and preventing disease, and providing care for those who are ill. While this is important and should continue to be prioritised, such strategies alone won’t increase levels of mental wellbeing overall.

Not only would enhancing mental wellbeing across all segments of the population lead to better health on average, it would also be beneficial from an economic perspective.

In our latest study, we explored the link between mental wellbeing and government expenditure. We found that each increase in mental wellbeing in a population was associated with lower health and social care costs the following year. In other words, … Read the rest

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Cumulus Neuroscience raises $8.3M to develop EEG-based wireless ‘Fitbit for the brain’

Belfast-based Cumulus raises €6.9m for its ‘Fitbit for the brain’ (The Irish Times):

… Formerly known as BrainWaveBank, the company has developed a wireless electroencephalogram (EEG) headset and proprietary software platform that use advanced analytics and machine learning to measure cognitive fitness.

“This funding will allow us to build on the ground-breaking advances we have made in remote, frequent monitoring of brain activity and cognitive function in the home, in partnership with leading developers of digital biomarkers,” said Mr Cunningham, the company’s chief executive.

“We believe our integrated next generation platform can improve the execution of clinical trials by yielding significant time and cost savings, adding meaningful value to the next generation of (CNS) therapies,” he added.

The investment was led by the Dementia Discovery Fund, a £250 million specialist venture capital fund investing in, and creating, biotech companies pursuing transformational therapeutic approaches for dementias including Alzheimer’s disease. LifeArc, a

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