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Digital Mental Therapy Company to Go Public in Merger

Child with computer tablet

(Nadine Doerlé, Pixabay.

26 Jan. 2021. A creator of game therapies for cognitive impairments is becoming a publicly-traded company through a special purpose acquisition company or SPAC. The merger with Social Capital Suvretta Holdings Corp. is expected to bring shareholders in Akili Interactive Labs Inc. up to $412 million in cash, with the company’s market value estimated at $1 billion.

Akili Interactive develops computer games to treat cognitive deficiencies that the company says is based on neuroscience and algorithms to deliver personalized physiological changes in the brain. Akili says its technology is designed for disorders in regions of the brain affecting attention and focus, multi-tasking, memory and goal management, spatial navigation, planning, and organization.

The company’s first product is EndeavorRx, a computer game therapy for ADHD, short for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. ADHD is a condition in children marked by difficulty paying attention, staying focused, controlling behavior, and high levels of activity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates ADHD affects some 6.1 million children in the U.S. age 2 to 17. Current treatments for ADHD, says the company, include medication and behavioral therapies, which are limited by undesired side effects from medications, and a shortage of trained therapists, as well as varying insurance coverage for therapies.

Akili says EndeavorRx delivers sensory and motor stimuli to the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain dealing with attention and other cognitive functions, such as memory. The company says the game is designed to give children with ADHD a fun experience while stimulating and exercising these brain centers to improve multitasking, focusing on goals, and avoiding distractions. The game is guided by algorithms that personalize the treatments to patients’ specific conditions and progress.

A new approach to cognitive science

Science & Enterprise reported in June 2020 on FDA’s authorization of EndeavorRx for use with a therapy, medication, or education program guided by a clinician. Akili says the game also received a CE mark, clearing EndeavorRx for use in Europe. The company says it’s developing interactive game therapies for other neurological conditions: multiple sclerosis, major depression, autism spectrum disorder, and Covid-19 brain fog.

Akili Interactive is going public by merging with Social Capital Suvretta Holdings, a SPAC enterprise formed as a joint venture between private equity companies Suvretta Capital Management and Social Capital. Social Capital Suvretta Holdings is already a public company, listed as DNAA on the Nasdaq exchange, with the aim of acquiring a biotechnology company, in this case Akili Interactive.

Chamath Palihapitiya, chairman and CEO of Social Capital Suvretta notes in an Akili Interactive statement, “Akili is taking a new approach to cognitive science, using software to target our underlying cognitive function and creating an entirely new class of medicine as a byproduct.” Palihapitiya adds, “Akili has the unique opportunity to change how we treat pediatric ADHD. They have also laid the groundwork to treat a wide range of other cognitive issues affecting tens of millions of people around the world.”

The merger is expected to complete in mid-2022, with current Akili investors receiving up to $412 million in cash. Of that total, $250 million is provided by Social Capital Suvretta and another $162 million raised from a private investment in public equity, or PIPE transaction, a private means of raising capital for public-company acquisitions at a reduced share price, in this case $10.00 per share. When the transaction is complete, Akili Interactive will trade on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol AKLI, and is expected have a market capitalization of $1 billion.

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