Programs developed in conjunction with Pear Therapeutics for patients with schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis.

Novartos CEO Vas Narasimhan has big goals for his company, and digital solutions are among the new technologies he is focused on. He intends to use digital technology, including machine learning and artificial intelligence, to save Novartis money, improve the efficiency of R&D and enhance the effectiveness of the company’s commercial operations. 

The company’s latest collaboration with Pear Therapeutics is helping him reach those goals. The two firms aim to develop prescription digital therapeutics to treat patients with schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. The company expects to seek FDA approval for at least some of the products that result from the effort.

This deal follows other interesting relationships pursued by Novartis, including a collaboration with Qualcomm to use the latter’s wireless, connected devices and in-home collection stations to monitor patients in clinical studies. Novartis also created a new chief digital officer position in 2017, which is held by Bertrand Bodson, a leader from the retail sector.

The technology offered by Pear includes mobile and desktop applications that are based on clinically proven treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy. If the company receives regulatory approval, the products could be prescribed in conjunction with medications. Novartis will be working with Pear to develop digital products that can be paired with its drugs, with an initial focus on brain diseases.

To date, Pear has shown that its Thrive product for patients with schizophrenia helps keep them involved with treatment. Novartis will help further develop this product, as well as a new app for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) that are suffering from depression and other mental health problems. The new app could potentially be prescribed with Novartis’s marketed MS drug Gilenya and new MS candidate siponimod, for which the company is expected to make a regulatory filing in 2018.