At a time when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has challenged tech companies to come up with novel ways to address the opioid crisis, a San Francisco-based startup has taken up the challenge.
Quit Genius, a personalized digital therapeutic for addictions, which seeks to conquer tobacco, opioid and alcohol addictions, has raised $11 million in a Series A financing round that was led by Octopus Ventures, one of Europe’s most active early-stage investors. There was also participation from Y Combinator, Startup Health, Triple Point Ventures, Serena Ventures, and Venus Williams. The startup has raised a total of $13.6 million since it was founded in 2017.
The digital therapeutic startup says it will use the money to expand its therapeutic programs beyond cigarette and vaping addiction to include alcohol and substance abuse, as well as increase its presence in the U.S., in response to the opioid crisis.
Yusuf Sherwani, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Quit Genius, said: “Since our last funding round 18 months ago, our customer base has increased ten-fold, we have demonstrated industry-leading quit rates and expanded our product offering to vaping cessation. Quit Genius is re-defining the gold standard therapy to tackle addictions and it is incredible to see the positive impact the team has made in such a short space of time.”
Will Gibbs, the early-stage investor at Octopus Ventures, described Quit Genius’ personalized digital approach as “exciting”
“When it comes to addiction, far too many people are still dying from deaths that are potentially avoidable. That’s why the personalized digital approach taken by Quit Genius is so exciting, as it is far more effective at changing behaviors and will ultimately save lives,” Gibbs said.
The Quit Genius approach
In explaining their approach, Quit Genius said it replaces conventional low-intensity telephonic cessation support with a personalized digital program that includes cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), expert coaching, a connected breath sensor and easy access to proven medication. The company said this innovative approach has translated to industry-leading quit rates, validated in six peer-reviewed papers and the largest randomized-controlled trial for a digital addiction program.
The company’s flagship program is an all-in-one tobacco cessation/e-cigarette program that combines digital therapy, nicotine replacement therapy and wearable technology to deliver holistic support to smokers who truly want to quit, it was reported.
Initially, Quit Genius’ focus was on tobacco and vaping use, where its evidence-based program has delivered a 53 percent quit rate for its users. This is almost triple the 15 percent quit rate achieved by traditional telephonic intervention, and just 3 percent when going cold-turkey.
Presently, Quit Genius, which was founded by three doctors, primarily works with self-insured employers and health plans to help lower healthcare costs, while improving employee satisfaction. It operates with a “fees-at-risk” model with a performance guarantee, where clients are typically “paid back” in the first four months. Quit Genius said it has more than 700,000 enrolled participants globally, working with enterprise clients across the U.S, Canada, and the UK.
Startup’s future plans
This year, Quit Genius is expected to launch what has been described as one of the first dynamic addiction programs encompassing capabilities across alcohol dependence and opioid use disorder. Under this program, users will receive a highly curated and personalized experience irrespective of which addiction or combination of addictions they are working to overcome.
Not stopping with addiction, Quit Genius is also determining how to play a part in combating the spread of the novel coronavirus. The company says smokers have a high-risk status of contracting the virus, so it will offer its product for free to new sign-ups through April so that they can immediately quit smoking.
Investor interest in digital therapeutics on the rise
Investors seem very keen on digital therapeutics that can help solve the opioid crisis and cure other addictions.
Last year, Pear Therapeutics announced the closure of a $64 million Series C financing barely a month after receiving the thumbs-up from the FDA for reSET-O, its prescription software for the treatment of opioid use-related addiction disorder.
This year, digital opioid treatment platform, Boulder raised $10.5 million in a Series A financing round.
Addiction to alcohol, drugs, and opioids is a massive healthcare issue. To that end, the private foundation of Howard Buffett, eldest son of Berkshire Hathaway’s billionaire CEO Warren Buffett, in 2018 announced that it was investing $30 million in social services programs in Decatur, Illinois to fight drug addiction in that area.