Digital Therapeutics: A Revolution In Health

An Executive Perspective on Digital Therapeutics by Natalie Dakers.  


It’s disruptive. It’s cutting edge. And it’s going to take the world of health by storm.


There is an emerging revolution in health – called digital therapeutics – of which Canada needs to pay attention, or risk being left behind. How is it impacting health and what should Canada be doing in this regard?


Accel-Rx was pleased to host a panel at BIO 2019 to share best practices and lessons learned from leaders in digital therapeutics. While there were many key takeaways, this one was above the rest:


There is a lot going on in digital therapeutics in the rest of the world, and it behooves Canada to learn from the experiences of others who are already marching down this digital path.


The economic benefits are astounding: billions of dollars are being invested in digital health firms around the world. In 2018 alone, funding in this area was at an all-time high of $14.6 billion. And a portion of that is going towards digital therapeutics specifically.


Economics aside, the benefits for patients and health care are many. According to the Digital Therapeutics Alliance, digital therapeutics can:

  1. Prevent, manage and treat a medical disorder or disease with novel therapy options.
  2. Empower patients and health care providers with intelligent and accessible tools to address a wide range of conditions.
  3. Be integrated into patient lifestyles and health care provider workflows, delivering personalized care and an integrated health care experience with improved outcomes.

The list goes on, but what do Canadian companies need to think about if they venture into this space? The short answer is lots. Here are five key pieces of advice from our panel of experts from the Digital Therapeutics Alliance, Pear Therapeutics and Sanofi:

  1. Evidence-Based Medicine Is Key: All digital therapeutics must do randomized control trials. The good news is they are shorter and less expensive than traditional clinical trials. Start with clinical relevance, figure out what the gold standard is for physicians and patients, and then work backward to design a trial to provide compelling evidence of your impact claims.
  2. Innovate Your Business Model: Thinking about your business model is just as important as thinking about your technology. You need to figure out how you go to market, who’s willing to pay, and what kinds of outcomes you are expecting. There are examples out there and we need to learn from them.
  3. Diverse Investors Strengthen Ventures: The strongest DTx start-ups attract both tech and life sciences investors. Both bring different perspectives, competencies, experiences and biases, so it’s to your benefit to reach out to both.
  4. Cultural Shift Is Needed: When you bring scientists together with software developers, everyone needs to be on the same page. Software developers need to wrap their heads around the non-linear, biological relationships of science.
  5. Protect Your Interest: The intellectual property of these therapeutics is also protectable – but different than what we are used to. Get good advice. Be thoughtful about how you protect your intellectual property, so you can carefully safeguard your investment.

In short, this marriage between health and technology will forever change how health care is being delivered. It’s going to solve a lot of problems and have life changing impacts that we can’t possibly imagine yet. There is a whole world out there that is embracing digital therapeutics, and it’s time for Canada to join the revolution.


Missed our panel session on digital therapeutics? Watch the full video.


Natalie Dakers is the CEO and Founding President of Accel-Rx.