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Akili Labs collaboration will evaluate video game to treat autism

Akili Interactive Labs will do an efficacy study of its video game platform for children with high functioning autism who also experience attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is part of a collaboration with nonprofit Delivering Scientific Innovation for Autism — the venture philanthropy affiliate of Autism Speaks, according to a company statement. Akili developed the […]

Akili Interactive Labs will do an efficacy study of its video game platform for children with high functioning autism who also experience attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is part of a collaboration with nonprofit Delivering Scientific Innovation for Autism — the venture philanthropy affiliate of Autism Speaks, according to a company statement.

Akili developed the Project EVO platform through technology licensed from the lab of Dr. Adam Gazzaley at University of California at San Francisco to help identify and treat cognitive disorders. Last year, it collaborated with Pfizer on a study applying the technology to identify symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. It also worked with Shire to use the video game for people with ADHD. Akili is part of a group of compaies that have come out of PureTech.

The idea is that EVO can improve cognitive interference — 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, the statement said.

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

Robert Schultz, Director of the Center for Autism Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania serves as an adviser to Akili Labs. He said effective therapeutic interventions for executive functioning are sorely needed and would provide tangible benefits, such as having a major effect on improving quality of life for this patient population, according to the statement.

Akili’s ultimate goal is to get physicians to prescribe these games but for that to happen EVO needs clinical validation, hence the studies.It’s part of the increasing trend of beyond the pill — developing apps, games and other digital health tools to support patient engagement and complement a medication regimen.

The company plans to go into more depth about the collaboration at the upcoming Autism Speaks Investment Conference March 10th.