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Pear Therapeutics and Novartis Will Collaborate on Prescription-Strength Apps


The Boston-based startup and the pharma giant will work on clinically-validated digital interventions for MS and schizophrenia.

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Boston-based startup Pear Therapeutics will link with Novartis to develop prescription-strength digital interventions for schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis (MS).

The relationship will bring together Pear’s innovative pipeline of digital technologies with Novartis’s long history of developing neurological therapeutics—and commercializing them.

In a statement, Pear CEO Corey McCann, MD, PhD, said that the 2 companies share a vision of combining drugs and apps to deliver better outcomes, and that their collaboration “further supports the clinical viability of prescription digital therapeutics as an emerging treatment modality.”

According to the statement, the companies plan to build on Pear’s Thrive platform, a late-stage therapeutic for schizophrenia that has undergone 3 clinical studies of over 1,000 combined patients with the condition.

Pear’s website lists an early-stage, unnamed MS intervention as a developmental partnership with Italy’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. Today’s announcement said that Novartis and Pear will work to build a new application to alleviate disease burden for patients with the disease, and does not indicate whether it will be related to the existing project.

For the pharma maker, the timing seemed right.

“With widespread adoption of digital devices, prescription digital therapeutics could potentially play an important role in future treatment models for a range of diseases with high unmet medical need, used both alone and in combination with systemic agents,” Jay Bradner, MD, President of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research said.

His company has invested in Pear before, participating in a $50 million Series B round that the tech firm announced on the first day of 2018. And the burgeoning company has more going for it than industry buzz and good finances.

The applications that Pear develops are a far cry from the glut of available, unproven mHealth and fitness apps. The company clinically validates its work and seeks regulatory approval as legitimate medical therapies. In September 2017, it received a first-of-its-kind FDA approval for Reset, an app designed to treat substance use disorder for alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and other stimulants.

Also in September, Pear was chosen to participate in a new FDA pre-certification pilot program, alongside global giants like Apple and Johnson & Johnson. The initiative will test out ways to accelerate the approval process for digital medical technologies.

Reset isn’t approved to treat opioid abuse, but Pear has submitted a separate version, Reset-O, for approval. In October, it was granted an Expedited Access Pathway designation. The company’s pipeline also includes interventions for Parkinson’s disease, combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, major depressive disorder, and respiratory and inflammatory conditions.

Related Coverage:

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Why the FDA is Making It Easier for Tech Heavyweights to Get Approvals

How Might the FDA's New Pilot Program Transform Digital Health?

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