Boston-based Akili Interactive Labs, developing clinically-validated video games for cognitive assessment and personalized treatment, has entered into a clinical collaboration agreement with Delivering Scientific Innovation for Autism (DELSIA).
DELSIA is a not-for-profit venture philanthropy affiliate of Autism Speaks, an autism science and advocacy organization. DELSIA will fund a controlled study to determine the efficacy of Akili's cognitive gaming intervention platform in children with co-occurring high-functioning autism and ADHD.
"We are very excited to have the involvement and backing of such an excellent organization that believes in our vision: validated medical products that also have a fun user experience," said Eddie Martucci, co-founder and COO of Akili. "Our products combine the high engagement and high-resolution data of the tech industry with the strong scientific underpinning of the medical industry. We are excited to advance our products further into the clinic and into the market.”
Akili's deal with DELSIA follows a series of healthcare partnerships for both groups in the last year. This marks the third strategic partnership for Akili, which previously announced investment and collaboration deals with Pfizer and Shire. Autism Speaks recently announced a deal with Google around genetic sequencing.
Akili's cognitive platform, Project: EVO, is based on technology licensed from the lab of Dr. Adam Gazzaley at UCSF. The mechanics are designed to directly target an individual's ability to process "cognitive interference"—specifically the ability to deal with multiple streams of sensory information. Improving cognitive interference has the potential to improve higher-order executive functions such as problem solving, working memory and self-regulation. Additionally, changes in cognitive interference may be a highly sensitive biomarker for changes in cognition.
The Project: EVO platform targets cognitive interference through its proprietary software that adapts difficulty automatically and in real time, allowing individuals of wide-ranging ability levels to interact with the product and to personalize the treatment as needed. The product has been pilot tested in autistic children and other populations in which executive functions are compromised, including ADHD, depression and early Alzheimer's disease.
“This partnership holds real promise for serving the needs of a subset of individuals on the spectrum," said Robert Schultz, director of the Center for Autism Research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, and an advisor to Akili. "While individuals with autism spectrum disorders have a wide variety of needs, difficulties with executive functioning are prominent and known to be associated with difficulties with adaptive functioning and independence in adulthood. Effective therapeutic interventions for executive functioning are sorely needed and would provide very tangible benefits, including having a major effect on quality of life for these individuals."
The Project: EVO platform has been used or is currently in use in 10 ongoing or completed clinical studies in various patient populations. Additionally, the company is actively building its technology pipeline, focused in cognitive areas complementary to the current executive function product.
Akili was founded by PureTech, a science and technology R&D company with the mission of developing and commercializing breakthrough technologies aimed at solving major healthcare problems. Based in Boston, PureTech is run by a team of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs and is connected to top-tier academic institutions. PureTech concentrates on a handful of major initiative areas at a time, generates and proactively identifies and reviews ~800 technologies per year and seeks to select only the most technologically and commercially promising programs to advance.
Autism Speaks established the not-for-profit affiliate DELSIA in 2012 as an innovative funding vehicle with the goal of improving outcomes for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). DELSIA ensures scientific breakthroughs and technological advances are developed into products that improve health and quality of life for individuals with ASD and their families. Autism Speaks was founded in 2005 and has grown into a leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.