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FDA clears game to treat pediatric ADHD

The FDA has granted clearance to market a game from Akili Interactive that is designed to treat pediatric ADHD. This opens the door to similar clearances of games that act as digital therapeutics.

Eleven years ago I started working with Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist and brain imaging specialist at UCSF who had an idea of making a game to research the effectiveness of his attention training methods. He brought on some other ex-LucasArts developers to build it, and did fMRI and EEG testing to verify its efficacy. That became Neuroracer, the first (and so far only) game to grace the cover of the scientific journal Nature. And it grew into a company called Akili Interactive, who brought on board a bunch of game developers to create a more capable game aimed at pediatric ADHD. Yesterday we finally got this long-sought announcement from the FDA.

So now a game called EndeavorRx - not a "gamified app" or some boring therapy sequence with achievements tacked on - is cleared for marketing as a digital pharmaceutical, giving the games industry an opening into that market - annually $300 Billion in the US alone - and an approved way to use games to help people with pressing medical problems. Other areas that have shown much promise are treatment of PTSD, phobias, chronic pain, depression, and MS, as well as training for doctors and caregivers, and early detection of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other degenerative diseases. This is a big deal for our industry, a way for us to do a lot of good in the world. Once a new treatment gets this De Novo clearance, it speeds the process of similar approaches to get FDA sign-off.

Just a disclaimer - this is not an official Akili press release, my own role in Akili is very modest, I advise and do occasional consulting work, and I should particularly credit Matt Omernick, one of their co-founders with leading a lot of the game development efforts from the Neuroracer days onward.

 

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