This week, we explore an innovative artificial intelligence app used to treat mental health issues. We consider opportunities related to investments in women’s health. We also look at a few pharma giants, including two with a commitment to supply COVID-19 vaccines to Africa and one with a series of big wins and losses in its second-quarter earnings report.
Each week, we highlight five things you need to know in the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.
San Francisco-based Woebot Health has developed an app trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. Using machine learning, a form of AI, the app learns and responds to users’ emotional states, helping them self-identify and work through mental health challenges. The company recently closed a $90 million Series B funding round. “It’s gratifying that some of the world’s leading investment groups see the same potential for relational technologies to deeply engage people in their mental health at scale, and to transform care. We’re thrilled they are aligned on our core vision and energized by their commitment to advance the next frontier of technology-enabled mental health care,” said Woebot Health Chief Executive Officer Michael Evers.
Investors have traditionally under-invested in companies focused on women’s health and in companies with female founders or leadership. In this Life Science Leader article, they show how this has created an opening for new investment funds with a focus on women’s health, an opportunity to increase representation of women in clinical trials to reduce long-term risk of recalls, and a need for better support and investment in female founders.
Only 1.5% of Africa’s 1.3 billion people have been fully vaccinated. Pharma giants are stepping up in their commitment to provide COVID-19 vaccines to the region. Pfizer and BioNTech revealed that they will manufacture their co-developed vaccine through a local manufacturer, Biovac. Johnson & Johnson has also pledged to manufacture up to 400 million doses of its vaccine through a local manufacturer, Aspen Pharmacare.
When working through the process of clinical trials and drug approvals, the Food and Drug Administration encourages biopharma companies to work with them early and throughout the process. This is most often done through formal processes that allow the FDA to provide feedback to the sponsor while maintaining its independence and objectivity. As news continues to emerge on the approach of Biogen gaining approval of Aduhelm, the first novel therapy approved for Alzheimer’s disease since 2003, Endpoints News compares the actions of the FDA with previous drug approvals.
Biogen reported $542 million in impairment charges during its second-quarter earnings release. The charges relate to two gene therapy trials acquired through its $877 million acquisition of Nightstar Therapeutics. On the positive side, the FDA approved Biogen’s Aduhelm in June, making Biogen’s quarter one with major wins and losses during the quarter.