Q&A: How pharma partnerships could benefit digital therapeutics companies

At the tail end of 2022, Click Therapeutics announced it was expanding its partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim focused on developing prescription digital therapeutics for patients with schizophrenia. 

Pharma partnerships aren’t new for digital health players, or for Click, which has several products in its development pipeline. The company’s chief strategy officer, Austin Speier, said Click looks to work with pharma companies who view well-designed digital therapeutics as potential treatments on par with drugs.

Speier sat down with MobiHealthNews to discuss the expanded collaboration, and how pharma partnerships could help digital therapeutics companies establish themselves in the emerging field.

MobiHealthNews: You recently announced an expansion of your partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim. Can you tell me a little bit about that collaboration, and why you decided to expand it?

Austin Speier: We’re a little bit over two years into that collaboration. On the basis of the success of our team, how our two teams work together, as well as us hitting all of our development milestones and then the clinical successes that we’ve seen across three early clinical learning studies, it made sense to expand the collaboration. We think BI is really a great partner for that. We both see significant unmet need in schizophrenia. So we do see a need for multiple potential digital therapeutics within the space.

MHN: When you’re talking about creating multiple digital therapeutics, how will you divide out which therapeutic works best for which kind of patient? Is it dependent on severity or on their particular needs?

Speier: It’s a really exciting new area to start to think about how you can target different aspects of the same overall patient population with different digital therapeutics. We’re looking at it mostly from an indication-specific approach, so looking at different domains within schizophrenia. The actual process for selection of the digital therapeutic and who is the right patient for which, if they can be prescribed in a certain sequence, or if it’s up to the physician – those are all questions that we’re looking at answering. 

MHN: This partnership has been going on for a couple of years now, and you’ve embarked on other partnerships with pharma companies. Why do you think that pharma partnerships are valuable for digital therapeutics companies?

Speier: There are a few different reasons why we pursue pharma partnerships. One is to take on some of these more serious conditions where we think we could benefit from the expertise of a large pharmaceutical company. 

Another is that this is a new field, and the pharma companies that we partner with are ones that are committed to helping create the market for prescription digital therapeutics. There’s a lot of work whenever you create a new medical category whether that’s gene therapy, CAR-T or in this case digital therapeutics to create the infrastructure that you need and the various coverage and reimbursement policies required. And pharma companies are set up to do that. They have a lot of expertise in those areas. 

We just think that these products need to get out at scale. That’s one of their advantages: They can scale very quickly, and there’s a lot of unmet need in terms of access and health equity that can be addressed through digital therapeutics. And so, having a partner who can launch a product at scale, we think, is also a good way to do justice to the potential of these products.

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