Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Not "Our" Merck -- And Not So Sure About This Idea, More Generally...

Let me say at the outset (per the very impressive line-up of logos, at right) that a lot of extremely smart people have decided to back this with real cash -- nearly $50 million, if we include the seed-, and Series A- rounds.

Having said that, I for one am glad that the US Merck (no relation) has kept its venture arm out of this investment. [It would have been a short reach, from Amgen to Dr. Perlmutter (and thoughts of eventual expansion to Alzheimer's), but that didn't happen -- thankfully, in my opinion.] I'm not at all sure I see a fit, even between the German Merck venture arm, and this idea. Now, Pfizer and Amgen -- each is already in the AD/HD space, with drug offerings, so I at least see the theory there.

It would be wonderful -- a miraculous development, actually -- if it turns out that a mobile video game platform can improve the cognitive abilities of kids with AD/HD. I suspect (having done almost no reading on the topic) it is more likely to be used first as a diagnostic device -- to assess kids.

Even so, if the longer term goal is an efficacy trial, for improvement in AD/HD symptoms -- I think that will be very tough to demonstrate. But we shall see -- here's a bit, from XconomyBoston, this early morning:

. . . .Akili announced it tacked on $11.9 million to its recent Series B funding round, bringing the round’s total to $42.4 million. The additional money comes from the venture capital arms of pharma giants [GERMAN] Merck and Amgen—both new investors in Akili—along with previous backers, Akili says in a press release. Before the Series B, Akili had raised at least $7 million through venture capital, grants, and industry collaborations.

The deal strengthens Akili’s ties to the pharma industry and likely gives its experimental technology more credibility as it tries to become the first company to receive FDA approval to sell interactive electronic games as a medical device capable of diagnosing and treating a variety of cognitive disorders. Akili now has four relationships with large pharma companies or their investment arms; it previously struck a partnership with Pfizer and snagged an investment from Shire Pharmaceuticals.

Akili marks the first investment by [GERMAN] Merck’s VC arm into a company that sits at the intersection of software and medicine. . . .

Onward now, on a sweltering, humid mid-summer morning -- with a wide grin, just the same. . . as more symphony music is in store, in the cool of this coming evening. Be excellent to one another!

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