A large drugmaker is making a bet on a smaller firm that developed digital therapeutic technology for treating the condition commonly known as “lazy eye.”

Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis said Monday that it had acquired Phoenix-based software startup Amblyotech, which is developing a digital treatment for amblyopia.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, Amblyotech CEO Joe Koziak noted in an email. Novartis will work with McGill University in Montreal and also Montreuil, France-based video game company Ubisoft to accelerate product development and enable faster uptake, with point-of-care studies planned later this year.

“By offering a noninvasive solution that has the potential to be significantly faster than current standards of care such as patching for children and adults impacted by lazy eye, Amblyotech’s software is a great example of how we can reimagine medicine using digital technology,” said Nikos Tripodis, head of Novartis’ ophthalmology global business franchise, in a statement. “We look forward to using our deep clinical development expertise in ophthalmology to accelerate this platform toward regulatory approval, and our global commercial footprint to maximize access for patients who need it.”

Amblyotech’s digital therapeutic runs on a tablet and is designed to train the eyes to work together in order to view in image in full by employing active gaming and passive video technology combined with 3-D glasses. Using an internal algorithm, each eye is presented with different images in what is called a dichoptic display.

An early clinical trial in 28 children, results of which were published in JAMA Ophthalmology in 2016, showed that the half of participants randomized to the game showed improvement in amblyopic eye best-corrected visual acuity compared with the half in the control arm, who were given patches. Those who got patches were allowed to cross over to use of the game and were able to catch up in terms of improvement in visual acuity.

The acquisition isn’t Novartis’ first foray into digital therapeutics. In 2018, it formed a partnership with Pear Therapeutics to develop digital therapeutics for schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis, but it back out of that deal in October of last year.

Photo: Jay_Zynism, Getty Images



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