Amgen and Merck KGaA Invest in Boston's Akili, Increasing Funding Round to $42.4 Million

This article was originally published here
July 20, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

BOSTON— Digital medicine company Akili Interactive Labs picked up $11.9 million in additional funding from Merck Ventures BV, a subsidiary of Merck KgaA, and Amgen Ventures in an expansion of a Series B round of funding.

Akili said the funds, which are part of $42.4 million the company has raised in the latest round, will be used to expand development of its clinical-stage products into new areas. The company said the expansion will include a greater focus on neurodegeneration. Akili also said it plans to use some of the funds to build out its commercial infrastructure as it gets closer to being able to market some of its products.

The association with Merck Ventures and Amgen Ventures brings Akili’s relationship with major biopharma companies to four, including existing partnerships with Pfizer (PFE) and Shire Pharmaceuticals (SHPG).

“There exists a tremendous opportunity to deliver medicine that is efficacious and addresses the needs for safe, non-pharmacological treatments in many neurological and mental health patient populations. M Ventures’ and Amgen Ventures’ support, combined with that of our existing investors, will help us continue to advance our projects toward commercialization,” Eddie Martucci, co-founder and chief executive officer of Akili said in a statement.

Akili is currently conducting a pivotal trial of its lead product candidate, Project: EVO, in pediatric Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) through the STARS-ADHD study. The company plans to seek regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration if clinical data pans out the company said. In May, the company announced open enrollment in the trial. The trial will evaluate the safety and efficacy of the company’s proprietary Project: EVO platform. According to company information, the mechanics of the platform are “designed to directly target an individual’s core neurological ability to process multiple streams of information, which has the potential to improve problem solving, working memory and self-regulation.”

ADHD is a neurological condition marked by inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity, and though about 75 percent of young children with ADHD receive medication, there is a growing demand for non-pharmacological interventions.

In addition to ADHD, the platform is also being used in early studies on children with autism. Results from the study are expected in 2017, which, if successful, could position Akili for a product launch by year-end 2017, the company said.

In addition to its work with ADHD, Akili also is conducting multiple clinical studies in cognitive disorders and has recently expanded into disorders across neurodegeneration where cognition is significantly impacted, including Parkinson’s disease, major depressive disorder and multiple sclerosis.

Early backers of Akili’s financing round include JAZZ Venture Partners, Canepa Advanced Healthcare Fund and PureTech.

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